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Black Friday UK footfall drops in high streets for first time

Tom Bottomley
29 November 2021

Black Friday footfall in UK high streets declined by -0.5%, the first drop since Black Friday started in the UK.

However, in the week leading up to Black Friday, from 21 November, footfall across all UK retail destinations rose by 2% last week from the week before, with footfall up 6.5% in shopping centres and +4.9% in retail parks, according to retail experts Springboard.

Footfall actually strengthened significantly on Black Friday in shopping centres and retail parks, with growth at +17.9% and +11.4% respectively.

Footfall was -17% lower than the 2019 level, a widening of the gap from the week before when it stood at -12.4% from 2019, but more than double the level in 2020 (+102.1%).

The impact of home working and the lack of tourism is clear, as pre-Covid in 2019 footfall in Central London and regional cities outside the capital rose on Black Friday from the week before by +23.7% and +29.6% respectively, and by +32.3% in historic towns, while this year the rises were just +2.3% in Central London, +0.5% in regional cities outside of the capital and by +1.2% in historic towns.

The adverse weather on Saturday 27 November compounded the impact on footfall in high streets, with a decline of -14.5% from the week before on that one day, versus a rise of +3.5% in retail parks - which are convenient to reach by car - and +1.1% in shopping centres which are largely enclosed offering protection from the elements.

 

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, commented: “There were some strong gains in footfall in UK retail destinations last week - the week of Black Friday - however, all of the uplift came from shopping centres and retail parks. The overall results for the week leading up to and including Black Friday weekend was dampened by a far weaker footfall performance in high streets than anticipated, and a drop in high street footfall on Black Friday itself for the first time in history.

“Three factors sit behind this; firstly, the large proportion of office employees continuing to work from home meant that rather than visiting high street stores during the working day on Black Friday, for those shoppers who wanted to shop in store on Black Friday it was easier to head out to shopping centres and retail parks. Secondly, a reduction in overseas tourists in the UK has resulted in far fewer leisure shoppers who on Black Friday would typically head to Central London, large city centres around the UK and towns attractive to tourists such as historic and coastal towns.

“The third factor was the adverse weather on Saturday, which acted as a severe deterrent to shoppers in making trips to towns and cities. However, despite these challenges, the more substantial retail offer in larger towns and cities appealed to high street shoppers more than smaller towns.”

Image: PA

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