Disappointing retail footfall as Covid nervousness grows

According to retail experts Springboard, although footfall across UK retail destinations rose by +5.5% last week from the week before, it ended with a disappointing performance, felt especially by large city centres, with footfall over the weekend declining by -8.5% in Central London and by -6.4% in cities outside of the capital, meaning that in high streets across the UK footfall declined -2.6% over pre-Christmas weekend.

The week’s footfall increase dropped away sharply from Tuesday when footfall rose by +15.6% (in response to a decline of -11.1% on the previous Tuesday) to just +2.6% on Friday.  This was a precursor to a disappointing performance over the weekend when footfall rose by only +0.8% on Saturday and dropped by -1.4% on Sunday.

In contrast, the footfall in market towns was up by +3.4% and the picture in shopping centres was a little more positive, with a rise of +0.5% over the weekend, but retail parks were by far the most popular of the three destination types with a rise in footfall of +4.7%. Partly this will have been due to shoppers trying to get a head-start in buying food and groceries – the vast majority of retail parks have a food store – but it will have also been a result of the “Covid friendly”, open-air nature of retail parks, with large stores that can be easily reached by car and free parking.

The outcome of such a disappointing week was that footfall ended -19.1% lower than in 2019 (worsening from -17.7% in the week before). However, in contrast with 2020 the picture actually improved with footfall last week being +22.5% higher than in the same week last year compared with +18.1% higher in the week before.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard commented: “Despite the introduction of Plan B guidance to work from home and the significant rise in Covid infections, footfall rose last week across UK retail destinations.  However, the growing nervousness of consumers meant that increases dwindled with each day that passed, and by Friday the uplift in footfall was around just a quarter of that on Wednesday.

“This provided a forewarning for subdued performance of bricks and mortar stores and destinations over the weekend which, whilst regarded as the peak shopping weekend of the year, is exactly what occurred.  Indeed on Saturday footfall increased only very marginally from the week before, and on Sunday it was lower than the week before.

“The nervousness of shoppers about making in-person shopping visits inevitably meant that large city centres lost out to smaller high streets, particularly over the weekend when footfall declined from the week before in Central London and large cities outside of the capital whilst rising in market towns.”

About Tessa Clayton

A former Chief Sub of Red magazine, Tessa Clayton is the Digital Editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. As a freelance journalist she specialised in writing about parenting and family life, and has contributed to a wide variety of publications and websites including Tesco online, Mother & Baby, Livingetc, Junior, Boots Health & Beauty, Practical Parenting and babycentre.co.uk. Get in touch at tessa.clayton@biz-media.co.uk

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