According to retail experts Springboard, footfall across UK retail destinations rose marginally last week by +0.3% from the week before, with a varied performance across the three key destination types. Inevitably, consumers gravitated to shopping centres, which offer shelter from the elements, where footfall rose by +2.2% from the week before versus a drop of -0.9% in high streets. In retail parks, which benefit from ease of access by car, footfall rose by +0.9%.
The week started slowly, but footfall peaked on Tuesday with a rise of +6.4% before the cold weather hit on Wednesday. By Friday footfall was lower than the week before and on Saturday it dropped by -4.9% across all UK destinations and by -7.3% in high streets.
While footfall in UK high streets declined, it rose in Central London by +3.8% and by +1.4% in Outer London. Central London was supported by significant increases in footfall on Tuesday and Wednesday (+12.2% and +6.8% in Central London versus +6% and +1.8% across UK high streets). By Saturday, however, even Central London was impacted with a drop in footfall of -7% from the week before which was only very slightly better than the -7.3% drop across all UK high streets. City centres outside of the capital did not perform nearly as strongly as Central London, with a drop in footfall of -3.5% over the week.
Despite being a flat week for footfall compared to the week before, the uplift from 2021 increased to +10.3% last week from +8.8% in the previous week. Springboard said this is most likely due to subdued activity in the same week last year when consumers were restricting their social interaction in order to remain Covid free for Christmas. The largest gain was in high streets, where despite a drop in footfall of -0.9% over the week, footfall was +16.2% higher than 2021 versus +13.9% in the week before. What is encouraging is that the gap from the 2019 footfall level narrowed last week to -9.6% across all UK retail destinations from -11% in the week before, demonstrating that despite only a very marginal rise in footfall last week, the extent of this uplift was greater than in the same week in 2019.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, comments: “As forecast, footfall across UK retail destinations went into a lull last week following the boost delivered in the preceding two weeks by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There was only a very marginal rise in footfall from the week before, with a clear reduction in activity from Wednesday onwards when the cold weather hit.
“Somewhat inevitably, high streets were particularly hard hit as shoppers are exposed to the elements, while shopping centres performed best of the three destination types, reflecting the advantage of their temperature controlled internal environments.
“While footfall in UK high streets dropped marginally from the week before, London performed well with a rise in activity, particularly in Central London, which may well have been driven by consumers bringing forward pre-Christmas shopping and entertainment trips in advance of the train strikes planned for this week.
In normal circumstances, this would be the week when retail and hospitality trade ramps up, with many employees typically having their Christmas parties and shoppers hitting stores to purchase gifts, culminating in “Super Saturday”, the final Saturday prior to Christmas Eve. With train strikes planned for four days this week, there will be a clear impact on the trading success of stores, hospitality venues and destinations in what is the last normal working and trading week before Christmas.”