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“Extreme weather” deters shoppers as UK high streets suffer biggest drop in footfall

Tom Bottomley
13 March 2023

Last week, 5-11 March 2023, saw week-on-week footfall on UK high streets drop by -10.1% as severe weather conditions exposed shoppers to the elements and dealt a blow to retailers.

High streets were by far the hardest hit by the weather, as footfall in shopping centres – many of which offer a sheltered enclosed environment - saw a -5.1% week-on-week drop, and footfall in retail parks dipped by -2.5%.

Annual footfall also took a dive on high streets, as it was -5.3% down compared to the same week in 2022, according to the latest data from retail experts MRI Springboard.

Footfall across all UK retail destinations declined by -7% last week from the week before, a far greater decline than in the week before last when footfall had dropped by a modest -1.1%.

Inevitably, the gap from pre-pandemic 2019 footfall level widened to -15.7% last week from -10.9% across all UK retail destinations, and in high streets to -19.4% from -11.8% in the week before last.

The reduction in footfall last week meant that footfall was -2.9% lower than last year, compared with an annual increase of 6.9% in the week before last.

Other key findings include:

  • The North and Yorkshire was the hardest hit region, as footfall fell by -8.8% compared to 2022 as all UK regions saw week-on-week footfall drop
  • Weather disruption also encouraged working from home, and MRI Springboard’s Central London ‘Back to the Office’ benchmark tracked a -11.1% week-on-week drop, with the gap to 2019 hitting -24%

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at MRI Springboard, said: “The extreme weather last week had a severe impact on footfall across UK retail destinations with a week-on-week decline which - apart from the post-Christmas week - was the worst for four months.

“All destination types were impacted, but inevitably – with their exposure to the elements - by far the worst affected were high streets, with a decline in footfall from the week before which was double that in shopping centres and four times as great as in retail parks.

“Whilst the most significant drop in footfall occurred over the three days from Wednesday to Friday, when the adverse weather hit the UK, there was a week on week decline in footfall on every day last week.

“All UK geographies were impacted, with the greatest drops in footfall occurring in Wales, the West Midlands and Northern Ireland, and all types of high street felt the effect although city centres across the UK fared better than Central London.”

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