According to retail experts Springboard, although Plan B restrictions had not yet come fully into force, the first effects were already being felt last week with a drop in footfall from the week before of -3% in Central London, and -1.6% in other regional cities, versus a rise of +1.5% in market towns.
Overall, footfall across UK retail destinations declined by -1.1% last week, wholly driven by a -2.7% drop in activity in high streets.
Springboard’s anticipated uplift on Saturday did not occur, with a drop in footfall of -1.2% and only a very marginal increase of +0.1% in shopping centres.
Footfall did increase from the week before on each of the previous three days, peaking on Friday at +3.9% overall and +6.8% in shopping centres but the greater volumes of footfall on Saturday meant that this was not enough to deliver a positive result for the week as a whole.
At the end of last week footfall stood at -17.7% below the 2019 level and +18.1% above 2020 following the end of Lockdown 2.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard commented: “The hoped for pre-Christmas boost in trading did not materialise last week, with footfall in UK retail destinations declining from the week before, all of which was driven by a reduction in activity in high streets. Footfall did rise in retail parks and shopping centres, but only by a marginal amount which wasn’t enough to deliver an uplift overall.
“The week as a whole was impacted by a particularly poor result on Tuesday when there was double digit decline from the week before, undoubtedly due to severe weather, however footfall on Saturday – the peak trading day – was subdued with a marginal drop from the week before whilst there had been rises on each of the previous three days.
“The poor result on Saturday may well be the first signs of the impact of the Plan B restrictions which, although limited to compulsory mask-wearing in stores up to the end of last week, is likely to have increased nervousness amongst consumers around visiting busy destinations during peak shopping periods. Indeed there were already early signs showing last week, with declines in footfall from the week before in Central London and large cities outside of the capital whilst footfall in market towns – which are smaller more local high streets – rose from the week before.
“Whilst Plan B restrictions, such as advice to work from home if possible, don’t come into force until today, it appears to have already had an impact last week, with a decline in Springboard’s Central London Back to the Office benchmark that was nearly double the drop in footfall in Central London as a whole.”