Black Friday fails to boost November footfall as retailers face “waiting game” on restrictions
Footfall across all UK retail destinations dropped -14.5% for the four weeks from 31 October–27 November 2021, compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, against a drop of -13.4% last month, despite the anticipated boost of Black Friday trading.
In high streets, footfall declined -15.8% compared to the equivalent period in 2019, while it dropped -22% in shopping centres and -3.6% in retail parks, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard, who say that it is now a “waiting game” for retailers regarding the full extent of the impact of the Omicron variant on bricks and mortar retail in December in the run up to Christmas.
The relatively poor uplift in footfall in the last week of the month - Black Friday week - impacted the month as a whole, as footfall moved from -12.4% in the third week to a greater -17% in week four.
Black Friday was weaker than anticipated in all three destination types, but in high streets footfall over Black Friday declined from the previous week for the first time since the shopping event came to the UK (from -11.9% in week three to -19.3% in week four).
A key cause of the ongoing gap from the 2019 footfall level is that there hasn’t yet been the anticipated office return, with 53% of those employed continue to work from home for at least part of the week. A further cause is the lack of international tourism which is unlikely to improve with the spread of the Omicron variant.
Additionally, the ongoing gap from 2019 has been exacerbated by the long-term trend since 2009 of a decline in footfall in UK destinations of around -1.5% a year, primarily due to the migration of a proportion of retail spending online.
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “It is clear that a key cause of the ongoing gap from the 2019 footfall level is that we haven’t yet seen the anticipated office return, as 53% of those employed continue to work from home for at least part of the week. It is only when this proportion starts to increase in a meaningful way that footfall will consistently return to city centres.
“We must also add to this the impact of the lack of international tourism, which is now unlikely to recover quickly given the emergence of the Omicron variant. A further aspect is a long-term trend since 2009 of a decline in footfall in UK destinations of around -1.5% a year, primarily due to the migration of a proportion of retail spending online and so, even in the absence of Covid, it is likely that footfall would currently be around -3% lower than the 2019 level. It is now a waiting game for retailers to see the full extent of the impact of the Omicron variant on bricks and mortar retail in December.”