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Restricted consumer spending to dampen UK footfall this Black Friday

Tom Bottomley
15 November 2023

Footfall across UK retail destinations is forecast to be “subdued” for Black Friday, 24 November 2023, as restricted consumer spending power – impacted largely by interest rates and inflation combined with a long-term shift to online shopping – takes its toll.

Week-on-week footfall is predicted to increase 7.6% across all UK retail destinations on Black Friday next week compared to this Friday, 17 November, where as footfall increased by an average of 9.7% in the previous two years, according to retail analysts MRI Software.

That compares to an average 21% Black Friday boost seen across 2014 to 2019, “highlighting a long-term shift in consumer behaviour since the pandemic” when it comes to shopping in bricks-and-mortar retail destinations on Black Friday. Footfall this year is expected to be between 8% to 12% lower than a pre-pandemic Black Friday.

MRI Software predicts that footfall on Black Friday this year will be driven a 14.4% rise at shopping centre destinations. That is likely attributed to a number of factors making them attractive to consumers, including free parking in some cases, a wider variety of shops to choose from and leisure facilities so consumers can “make a day of it”.

Retail parks are forecasted to see footfall rise by 5.5%, while high street footfall will rise by just 5.1% on Black Friday, compared to a 17.2% boost on Black Friday in 2022.

Year-on-year footfall has weakened in recent months and now sits 1.3% below 2022 levels across all UK retail destinations. A number of retail destinations have lost anchor stores and are also feeling the impact of rising prices and a slowdown in consumption.

Jenni Matthews, Marketing and Insights Director at MRI Software, said: “Harsh economic conditions, falling consumer confidence and the continued shift to online shopping are set to create a challenging Black Friday for retail.

"Although we can still expect some consumers to make the most of Black Friday sales, the long-term shift towards online shopping combined with increasing household bills will see a subdued boost for bricks-and-mortar retailers. There’s also evidence that shoppers will want to hold out for a better bargain as we get closer to Christmas.

“What is interesting to see is if the ‘golden glow’ of Black Friday - and the kick starting of Christmas spend - is fading. Last year, retail destinations saw footfall rise by 10% from the year before (2021) on Black Friday and this was largely driven by a rise of 17.2% in high streets. However, much of this uplift could be viewed as an anomaly of COVID from the previous year when shoppers were cautious about visiting congested retail destinations.”

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