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UK footfall slows as October sees consumers hold back spending on non-essential items

Sophie Smith
02 November 2023

Consumer spending power is continuing to be curbed by the cost of living, with UK footfall down 1.3% - covering the four weeks from 1-28 October 2023 – compared to October 2022.

The drop marks the first decline in year-on-year footfall since April 2021, with high streets seeing a 2% decline, shopping centres a 1.8% decline and retail parks a marginal rise of 0.8%, according to the latest data from retail experts MRI Software.

James Massey, Managing Director OnLocation for Footfall Analytics MRI Software, said: "The impact of the cost of living on consumers’ spending power became even more evident in October as footfall dropped by 1.3% from last year across all UK retail destinations. That’s the first annual drop in footfall witnessed by us since emerging from the depths of the pandemic back in April 2021.

"While high streets and shopping centres saw year-on-year footfall fall, retail parks saw a marginal improvement, but that is also weakening each month from +2.2% in September. That suggests that consumer spend is slowing as shoppers are well and truly feeling the pinch which doesn’t bode well as we head into the festive period.

"Whilst reports show that inflation rates are slowing, this doesn’t negate the economic challenges facing consumers such as growing household bills in general but, more specifically, higher energy bills as we head into winter.

"For many, fixed rate mortgages are also coming to an end which means an increase in borrowing further impacting monthly disposable income. From September to October footfall declined marginally by 0.2% across all UK retail destinations predominantly driven by week on week declines during the first three weeks of the month in high streets and shopping centres. That is likely to be attributed to the rail strikes at the start of the month followed by severe storms in the third week of the month discouraging shoppers from visiting these destinations - especially where smaller shopping centres are located within the town centre.

"The final week of October, which coincided with the half-term school holiday in parts of the UK, prevented the result from being much more severe as retail destinations saw footfall rise by 9% in that week alone from the week before offsetting the average decline of 2.1% in the preceding three weeks."

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