UK retail footfall recovery continues as office workers boost high streets on weekdays
Footfall to UK retail destinations was up 12.5% in January, according to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ data. But while it rose, it was 2.6 percentage points down on December.
And while international tourists are returning, the biggest impact appears to have been made by locals working from home less and getting back into their offices. This had a particularly beneficial impact on high streets.
High street footfall increased by 20.2%year on year (the tracker has reverted to a straightforward year on year comparisons now that life’s almost back to normal), which was 0.5 percentage points up on the prior month.
And shopping centre footfall increased by 12.4%, although this was 1 percentage point worse than the previous month's rate.
However, retail parks, which have been generally buoyant both during and after the pandemic, had tougher comparisons. As a result, their footfall was down 3.5% year on year and 1.9% down on December.
But when compared to pre-pandemic levels, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of ground to make up. Total footfall decreased 6.5% on that basis with high streets down 8.5%, shopping centres down by a massive 25.2% and retail parks by 7.7%.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, attributed the January growth year on year to that return to offices, as well as to improvements in international tourists visiting the UK for shopping trips, and the January sales.
She also said that “retail parks faltered as the cost of living crisis put many shoppers off buying big-ticket home products often located there”.
Her view on office workers tallied with Springboard’s whose January retail tracker released the day before also cited a return to offices as key.
It had said that footfall on UK high streets rose 17.2% on weekdays compared to 2022, outpacing the smaller increase of 10.3% at weekends, “suggesting that employees have been tempted back into the office for 2023”.
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