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UK retail "remains resilient" in January despite challenges

Tom Bottomley
01 February 2024

Despite adverse weather conditions, uncertainty around household finances and rail strikes, there was a modest drop of 0.8% in overall UK footfall year-on-year in January.

Though footfall dropped by 20.1% in January compared to December 2023, that was in line with the traditional post-Christmas dip which has averaged at -22.9% since 2009, according to the latest data from retail analysts MRI Software.

However, inflationary pressures and the cost-of-living crisis still appear to be at the forefront, with the month-on-month drop in footfall higher than January 2023 when it was -18.8%.

The delayed return to offices and schools in the first week of January benefitted mainly retail parks where footfall rose by 2% week-on-week compared with declines in high streets (-0.8%) and shopping centres (-6.5%), likely influenced by the weather and travel disruptions across the UK.

Jenni Matthews, Marketing & Insights Director at MRI Software, said: "January was bookended with severe weather and travel disruptions, however, this failed to dampen activity within UK’s high streets with only a marginal drop in footfall witnessed during the first week of 0.8%, and a rise of 4.4% in the final week of the month when Storms Isha and Jocelyn caused chaos across parts of the UK.

"While the post-Christmas slump is evident in January’s footfall figures, the retail sector and businesses reliant on visitors travelling in by train are set to face challenges in the first half of February due to a number of planned rail strikes.

"However, optimism prevails with half term approaching as this historically tends to deliver a much needed surge in footfall following the festive period. Furthermore, with Easter break – the second biggest trading period for retail outside of Christmas - also in close proximity this year, it could serve as a benevolent boost for retail in the first quarter of 2024."

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