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Christmas UK footfall could peak early with shoppers anticipating supply issues

Tom Bottomley
11 October 2021

Retailers facing supply chain issues could mean the week of Black Friday will record greater footfall than the week before Christmas, as shoppers bring their festive purchases forward to November.

Retail intelligence experts Springboard predict Black Friday will be more popular this year, with week 47 (the week beginning 21 November, with Black Friday falling on 26 November) seeing a boost in footfall of +7.9%, as shoppers take advantage of widespread discounting to visit stores to ensure they secure the gifts they want.

That would be a greater rise than the predicted increase of +6.5% in the final week of Christmas trading (week 51).

Springboard forecast that footfall across UK retail destinations this Christmas will average -17% lower than 2019, continuing the current trajectory seen in September 2021.

The drop in UK footfall from 2019 is predicted to be driven by high streets at -17.7% and shopping centres at -17.5%, but retail parks will show ongoing resilience this Christmas strengthening by +5.5%.

However, overall Christmas footfall will be +80.9% stronger in comparison to 2020 when the UK was forced into Lockdown 2.

Footfall in large city centres will strengthen over the six week Christmas period (21 November through to 4 January), overtaking smaller high streets, as “consumers seek out the Christmas shopping experience they missed last year”.

In the week post Christmas, footfall in high streets and shopping centres will drop by around -20% as Boxing Day sales continue to be less appealing for consumers, add to that a number of retailers saying they will close on Boxing Day to give staff a much needed added break.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard commented: “This year, the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the supply issue associated with the shortage of HGV drivers, which has already affected stock in food stores and led to the recent fuel crisis, will unfortunately cause further issues for bricks and mortar retailers over the Christmas trading period.

“In addition, the end of the furlough scheme, coinciding with recent increases in energy prices are likely to further dampen footfall as household spend on Christmas gifts is constrained and family experiences are favoured.

While footfall will rise over the Christmas trading period, it will remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, part of which is the long term shift of some spending online which has impacted footfall by around -1.5% per annum for the past decade.”

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