Springboard reports that footfall across UK retail destinations rose by a modest +1.6% last week from the week before, driven mostly by high streets (+1.7%) and shopping centres (+2.4%) while footfall in retail parks remained largely level from the week before (+0.5%). The company says this indicates reservation in consumers and a lull in footfall prior to Black Friday, despite a range of promotions already being active.
The impact of the small rise in footfall last week was felt in the annual result, with the uplift from 2021 dropping back by nearly a half to +2.8% from +5% in the week before last, which is a potential reflection on nervousness around the current cost-of-living crisis. The largest hit on an annual basis was felt in high streets, where the increase from 2021 dropped back by nearly a third to +2.7% from +6.5% in the week before last. On the plus side, the gap from the 2019 footfall level narrowed slightly to -10.5% from -11.1% in the week before last.
However, Springboard said the results for the week as a whole can present a slightly misleading picture as virtually all of the uplift emanated from increases over the week on Sunday and Monday that averaged +12.7%, which represented a bounce back from a decline of -9.4% in the week before last. Between Tuesday and Thursday footfall dropped from the week before last by an average of -3.4% (versus +1.9% in the previous week), then it improved a little on Friday and Saturday to an average of +0.6%.
Diane Wehrle, insights Ddrector at Springboard, said: “As Black Friday promotions started to become evident, footfall across UK retail destinations rose marginally last week from the week before. However, rather than organic growth in activity all of the uplift was a consequence of a bounce back in footfall on Sunday and Monday from noticeable drops on those two days in the previous week. Over the rest of the week through to Saturday footfall either declined or rose only very slightly from the week before.
“The pattern of footfall last week was driven wholly by high streets and shopping centres, where a large proportion of demand emanates from discretionary spend, while in retail parks – many of which have a food store and other essential retailers – footfall was virtually flat on the week before each day.
“This suggests that despite a range of Black Friday promotions already being active, consumers have not yet increased their shopping activity, and may well be holding back in the hope of securing more favourable discounts as the week progresses.
“The see-sawing nature of footfall from week to week makes an annual comparison helpful, and last week the uplift in footfall 2021 fell back to nearly half of that in the week before last, demonstrating the vulnerability of consumer activity. This also comes as news broke that H&M is closing one in five UK stores, which is a process that many retailers have undergone post-pandemic and over the long term, reflecting a need to futureproof their store networks and also cautiousness in the current climate. Between Tuesday and Thursday last week when footfall declined from the week before, the increase from last year was eradicated.”