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Early Easter break boosts UK footfall

Tom Bottomley
04 April 2024

The early Easter bank holiday in March led to UK retail footfall showing "signs of stabilising" – with a modest rise from February of 1.7% across all UK retail destinations.

However, it signalled the lowest month-on-month rise for that period in the last decade, according to retail analysts MRI Software.

Other key findings include:

  • The week leading up to Easter provided a healthy boost in activity for all UK retail destinations, especially shopping centres and retail parks, where footfall rose by 10.3% from the week before.
  • Footfall rose year-on-year by 2.7% in all UK retail destinations in the five weeks from 25 February – 30 March 2024, with high streets leading the charge as activity rose by 3.4% versus more modest rises in retail parks (+3%) and shopping centres (+0.9%). The annual rise aligns with the shifts in key holidays such as Mother’s Day and Easter.

Jenni Matthews, Head of Marketing at MRI Software, said: "The combination of the long Easter weekend and payday led to a boost in footfall for UK retail destinations (last week, 24-30 March), largely driven by shopping centres and retail parks. Footfall rose by 6% last week from the week before in all UK retail destinations, aligning closely with MRI Software’s forecast of 6.6% for the week leading up to Easter weekend.

"Shopping centres and retail parks both led the charge witnessing rises of 10.3%, however high streets saw a much more modest rise of 1.9%. This was likely affected by early week weather disruptions leading to a decline in activity by an average of 1.2% from Sunday (24 March) to Wednesday.

"Retail parks and shopping centres saw footfall levels peak by an average of +26.3% and +18.6% on Thursday and (Good) Friday, respectively, which suggests many were busy stocking up on Easter groceries and essentials ahead of the weekend. As anticipated, footfall subsided by Saturday in retail parks and shopping centres, however high streets witnessed a week-on-week rise of 9.5% - indicating the attractiveness of the Easter festivities taking place in many UK towns and cities."

According to MRI Software’s latest figures, coastal towns witnessed the greatest rise in footfall last week from the week before at 17%, which coincided with the start of the Easter school holidays in many regions, followed by historic towns (+5.7%) and market towns (+4.8%).

This was much higher when compared with MRI Software’s Central London ‘Back to Office’ benchmark where footfall declined by 5.3% from the week before last.

Matthews added: "Easter Monday saw high streets emerge as the clear winners with footfall rising by 9.3% compared with Easter Monday last year, suggesting many people decided to take advantage of the good weather and enjoy the Easter attractions.

"Overall footfall rose by 8.5% in all UK retail destinations when compared against the same week in 2023, however this cannot be considered a true comparison against Easter week.

"When compared with Easter week in 2023, footfall declined by 5% in all UK retail destinations largely influenced by high streets seeing footfall drop by 7.5%. This may have been influenced by the unpredictable weather seen across the UK, especially in the earlier part of the week, combined with many deciding to take vacations."

Additionally, MRI Software says that the beginning of April "will be met with more challenges for the retail sector", as a new wave of rail strikes are set to take place from 5-8 April amid the ongoing Easter school holidays.

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