London footfall rises on New Year's Eve but UK-wide challenges remain
After some disappointing footfall figures for UK retail in the days leading up to Christmas and just after it, there appears to have been a hint of a recovery in recent days.
Springboard said on Monday that last week ended with a 5.2% increase in footfall on high streets on New Year's Eve compared to a week earlier (which should have been a very busy Christmas Eve shopping day but was actually quite disappointing).
Despite the Friday uplift, footfall overall for last week was down as much as 15%, and down 11.8% on high streets, 17.5% in retail parks and 19.2% in shopping centres compared to the week before.
It's interesting that football had declined by 9% on New Year's Eve in 2019, so clearly there's something very different going on at the moment.
Perhaps the extreme consumer caution that had been seen in the days leading up to Christmas due to fears over the new Omicron Covid variant have receded somewhat. Recent news strongly suggests that illness from the variant is much less severe and this could have encouraged consumers to get out and about and go into busy shopping destinations on New Year's Eve.
It's also interesting that footfall to Central London on the day rose compared to the week before and also that it rose by what Springboard called a “staggering” 54.8%. Some of that could have been linked to consumers socialising rather than shopping, but it remains good news either way.
Unfortunately, the uplift wasn't repeated in other city centres around the UK where footfall was down 0.8% compared to Christmas Eve and we need to not get ahead of ourselves at present because footfall remains weak in general.
The final week of the year ended with footfall in UK retail destinations 24.5% below the 2019 level, but at least it was 78% higher than the level in 2020.
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “Despite the well documented cautiousness of shoppers in the run up to and over Christmas this year, it appears that on New Year's Eve there was a shift in behaviour with footfall in high streets increasing from the week before (Christmas Eve). Not only was this the only day last week when high street footfall was higher than the week before, but it was also in sharp contrast with New Year's Eve 2019 when high street footfall was lower on New Year's Eve than on Christmas Eve. The winners on New Year's Eve were Central London and historic town centres where footfall rose significantly from the week before, whilst declining in smaller local high streets.
“Overall, footfall last week, which began on Boxing Day and ended on New Year's Day, was inevitably lower than in the preceding week which was the run up to Christmas and ended on Christmas Day.
“The comparison with 2019 also continued to be unfavourable, with a noticeable drop from two years ago. However, some of this is due to the date offset as the equivalent week in 2019 began on 29 December and ended on 4 January so missing the days immediately post-Christmas when footfall is at its lowest.”
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