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Rise in December footfall gives retailers festive cheer

Tom Bottomley
04 January 2024

Footfall across all UK retail destinations increased by 6.1% in December compared to November, providing a healthy boost for retailers despite "challenging economic circumstances".

Key Christmas trading days proved popular and crucial for traders, with Boxing Day driving footfall upwards by 10.6% compared to 2022, according to the latest data from retail analysts MRI Software.

Other key findings for December 2023 footfall include:

  • Footfall rose marginally by 0.2% year-on-year across UK retail destinations, mainly driven by a rise of 1.2% in high streets.
  • Investment in festive events and attractions paid off for high streets, with noticeable increases in footfall year-on-year and week-on-week throughout December.
  • Central London witnessed the most notable uplift in Boxing Day footfall year-on-year (+10.6%) and favourably compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels (+1.6%).
  • The gap from the pre-pandemic footfall level narrowed to -10.4% in December from -11.2% in November, driven by an improvement across all destination types.

Despite weather and rail disruptions, coupled with challenging economic conditions, the 6.1% jump in December footfall compared to November was predominantly boosted by the fourth week of the month, the final trading week before Christmas day, with footfall rising by 11.2% across all UK retail destinations.

Shopping centres led with a rise in footfall of 11.1% in December from November, followed by retail parks (+5.9%) and high streets (+3.7%). This is "indicative of the diverse offerings of shopping centre destinations, from eating out to a multitude of retail brands, making them a preferred choice for consumers during the festive season".

With an eye on the month ahead, Head of Marketing and Insights at MRI Software, Jenni Matthews, said: "As we look ahead to January, a natural post-Christmas slump is anticipated, with footfall projected to decline in the region of 20% to 25%. Weather warnings and a one-week delay in the return to school for many regions across the UK, may lead to subdued footfall at the start of the month.

"However, this should improve as the month progresses, compared to 2023 levels, particularly with more and more employees returning to offices. The financial constraints felt in the latter part of 2023 for many consumers are likely to continue into the early part of 2024 which may also impact footfall in UK retail destinations."

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