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UK footfall rises despite Plan B guidance but drops in high streets

Tom Bottomley
20 December 2021

Footfall across all UK retail destinations rose by 5.5% last week, 12-18 December, compared to the week before, but dropped away sharply from Tuesday - when footfall rose by 15.6% - to just +2.6% on Friday, as Plan B guidance including work from home “if you can” came into effect.

Footfall dropped by -8.5% in Central London and by -6.4% in cities outside of the capital over the pre-Christmas weekend, meaning footfall in high streets across the UK declined by -2.6%, though footfall was up +3.4% in market towns as people chose to “shop local”, as well as +0.5% in shopping centres and +4.7% in retail parks, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard.

Over the weekend, UK footfall rose by only +0.8% on Saturday and dropped by -1.4% on Sunday, as COVID infections increased and consumer confidence continued to spiral, with rumours of new lockdown measures being imposed becoming rife.

The outcome of the week was that footfall ended -19.1% lower than in pre-pandemic 2019, worsening from -17.7% in the week before. However, in contrast with 2020, the picture actually improved with footfall last week being +22.5% higher than in the same week last year, compared with +18.1% higher in the week before.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, commented: “Despite the introduction of Plan B guidance to work from home and the significant rise in COVID infections, footfall rose last week across UK retail destinations. However, the growing nervousness of consumers meant that increases dwindled with each day that passed, and by Friday the uplift in footfall was around just a quarter of that on Wednesday.

“This provided a forewarning for subdued performance of bricks and mortar stores and destinations over the weekend which, while regarded as the peak shopping weekend of the year, is exactly what occurred. Indeed, on Saturday footfall increased only very marginally from the week before, and on Sunday it was lower than the week before.

“The nervousness of shoppers about making in-person shopping visits inevitably meant that large city centres lost out to smaller high streets, particularly over the weekend when footfall declined from the week before in Central London and large cities outside of the capital while rising in market towns.”

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