According to retail experts Springboard, footfall across UK retail destinations rose by +2% last week from the week before. However, this was driven by shopping centres, which increased by +6.5%, and retail parks, which increased by +4.9%, while footfall in high streets declined by -1.5%.
The latest insight from Springboard reveals that footfall strengthened significantly on Black Friday, increasing from the week before by +17.9% in shopping centres and by +11.4% in retail parks. In high streets on Black Friday, however, footfall declined from the week before by -0.5%, the first drop since Black Friday started in the UK. In the eight previous years recorded by Springboard, high street footfall on Black Friday rose from the week before by an average of +17.3%, in 2019 it rose by +25% and even during lockdown last year it was +11.7% higher on Black Friday than the week before.
The impact of home working and the lack of tourism is clear; pre-Covid, in 2019, footfall in Central London and regional cities outside the capital rose on Black Friday from the week before by +23.7% and +29.6% and by +32.3% in historic towns, while this year the rises were just +2.3% in Central London, +0.5% in regional cities outside of the capital and by +1.2% in historic towns.
The adverse weather on Saturday compounded the impact on footfall in high streets with a decline of -14.5% from the week before on that one day, versus a rise of +3.5% in retail parks – which are convenient to reach by car – and +1.1% in shopping centres which are largely enclosed and therefore offer protection from the elements.
Footfall now stands at -17% lower than the 2019 level – a widening of the gap from the week before when it stood at -12.4% from 2019 – but more than double the level in 2020 (+102.1%)
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard commented: “There were some strong gains in footfall in UK retail destinations last week, the week of Black Friday. However, all of the uplift came from shopping centres and retail parks. The overall results for the week leading up to and including Black Friday weekend were dampened by a far weaker footfall performance in high streets than anticipated, and a drop in high street footfall on Black Friday itself for the first time in history.
“Three factors sit behind this; firstly, the large proportion of office employees continuing to work from home meant that rather than visiting high street stores during the working day on Black Friday, for those shoppers who wanted to shop in store on Black Friday it was easier to head out to shopping centres and retail parks.
“Secondly, a reduction in overseas tourists in the UK has resulted in far fewer leisure shoppers who on Black Friday would typically head to Central London, large city centres around the UK and towns attractive to tourists such as historic and coastal towns. The third factor was the adverse weather on Saturday, which acted as a severe deterrent to shoppers in making trips to towns and cities. However, despite these challenges, the more substantial retail offer in larger towns and cities appealed to high street shoppers more than smaller towns.”