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Switch on of Christmas lights in cities boosts UK footfall

Tom Bottomley
15 November 2021

Footfall across all UK retail destinations rose by 1.5% last week, 7-13 November, compared to the week before, with the switching on of Christmas lights in many cities on Friday cited as providing the boost.

Footfall across the week rose 2.5% in high streets and 1.7% in shopping centres, though retail parks saw a decline of -1.1%, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard.

Much higher jumps in footfall were seen on Friday 12 November, a popular day for many cities across the UK to turn on their Christmas lights, with footfall of +11.7% in high streets, +10% in high streets and +3.2% in retail parks.

Footfall in Central London rose by 1% last week, however, with the widespread lights switch on taking place on Saturday, the benefit in footfall will be seen more clearly when this week’s figures become available.

Despite early signs of the start of Christmas trading, footfall still has ground to make up as the gap from the 2019 level widened to -14.8% versus -13.4% in the week before last. In high streets, the gap from 2019 last week was -16.5% against -15.1% in the week before last, and in shopping centres it was -22% against -20.7% in the week before last.

Retail parks remain the most resilient of the three destination types, with a gap from the 2019 level of just -3.5% last week, however, the drop in footfall from the week before meant that this nearly doubled from -1.9% in the week before last.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, commented: “With Christmas lights being switched on in a number of city centres at the end of last week, it might have provided an early indicator of the anticipation of shoppers for visiting retail destinations over the Christmas trading period.

While footfall declined marginally between Monday and Friday last week, the week was bookended with marked increases from the week before on both Sunday and Saturday, the two days when shoppers are more readily able to make leisure trips to retail destinations. In addition, it was high streets and shopping centres - where Christmas events and decorations tend to be in the greatest abundance, rather than retail parks that benefited from the greatest uplift in shopper activity.”

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