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Post-Christmas break sees Brits stay home and retail footfall remain in decline

Tom Bottomley
04 January 2021

Footfall across all UK retail destinations slumped by -23% last week - 27 December – 2 January - compared to the week before, as the coronavirus pandemic and tougher tiered restrictions continue to strangle non-essential retail and “staying safe” at home remains the priority.

The biggest footfall drop was seen in shopping centres at -31.8% and high streets at -21.9%, while retail parks were -16.8% week-on-week, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard.

As the pandemic continues in to 2021, footfall across the UK as a whole was -55% lower than in the same week last year, at -64.6% on high streets, -60% in shopping centres and -31% in retail parks.

The impact of tightened government restrictions post-Christmas is highly apparent, with footfall in Tier 4 locations -72.2% lower than last year, while only -33.9% lower in Tier 3 locations.

The Springboard data highlights that footfall in Scotland and Northern Ireland plummeted last week as the two nations entered lockdowns, with a drop from the week before of -58% in Scotland and -74.4% in Northern Ireland.

Footfall in Wales only dropped marginally over the week, by -8.6%, but it had undergone a far larger decline in footfall of -59.7% in the week before when it entered its own lockdown.

In each of the three nations, the annual decline in footfall last week was greater than in England, at -68% in Scotland, -70.3% in Wales and -78.3% in Northern Ireland, compared to -53.4% in England.

With the “stay home, stay local” message back in force in the New Year, it is unsurprising that the greatest loss of footfall from last year continues to occur in London and large city centres across the UK, where last week it was -81.8% lower than in the same week last year.

Smaller towns continue to be more resilient, although declines in footfall are still significant with an annual decline in footfall of -59.3% in coastal towns, -69.6% in historic towns and -63.2% in market towns.

However, last week London was the only place where footfall actually rose from the week before - by +2.5% in Central London – possibly a result of Londoners using the post-Christmas week to explore the City while it’s quieter.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “The end of the festive trading period and tightened government restrictions unsurprisingly saw footfall in UK retail destinations drop significantly at the end of 2020.

"Moving into a new year, with the extension of Tier 4 across virtually all of England and lockdowns in place in the devolved nations, retailers are unlikely to see any respite until restrictions are eased in the coming weeks or months.

“We know from our experience of retail reopening in June 2020 that, until the widespread roll out of the vaccine, retail footfall will remain significantly below the pre-Covid level.”

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