Published: 9:35 AM August 6, 2022
Dereham traders have admitted footfall is heading in the wrong direction as the cost of living crisis worsens.
Firm across the town said business in recent months had been far quieter than in years gone by, with customers having to re-assess their spending habits.
It comes after new data showed footfall across the UK fell below pre-pandemic levels last month, declining 14pc compared to July 2019.
Statistics published by Springboard also showed visits to high streets dropped by 17pc.
A grim picture was painted on Thursday (August 4) by the Bank of England, which warned the UK was set to fall into a recession – meaning the economy is shrinking – for more than 12 months from this autumn.
With inflation continuing to rise, Maria Barber, who runs Daisy’s florist in Dereham High Street, doesn’t see her fortunes changing any time soon.
“We’ve got far fewer people coming in,” she said. “Footfall has definitely decreased since 2019, probably by about 30pc.
“The only thing I can put it down to is the cost of living. People’s bills are obviously so high that they are having to cut out things like flowers which, after all, are a luxury.
“You have to look at it with an open mind. From our point of view, people are still getting married – but they aren’t spending as much.
“We’ve got our regulars, but we can see from our order history that people just aren’t re-ordering because they’ve got bills to pay and cars to fill up.”
Derick Norman, manager at Myhills Pet and Garden in Church Street, believes people growing accustomed to shopping online during lockdown has played a huge part in the downturn.
“Things have gone a bit quiet since Covid,” he said. “Everyone started buying online and they have seen how easy it is, so they have carried on.
“We’re not doing too badly, but we have noticed a difference in footfall.
“Our regulars are very loyal and, in fairness, we are seeing new faces. I would say, though, that there is not a lot of spending going on.”
Karen Fisher, sales assistant at gift shop Evie’s, in the Market Place, revealed her customers seemed intent on tracking down cheaper items.
“Comparing things to before lockdown, we were definitely busier before,” she added.
“With the cost of living, I think people are changing their habits and watching the pennies. They will come in and look for a bargain where they can find one.”