"Slow start" to 2022 for retailers as footfall improves slightly
Shopper footfall improved slightly last month as experts noted a “slow start” to 2022 despite the easing of Omicron restrictions.
New data from the monthly BRC-Sensormatic IQ footfall monitor showed that footfall remained significantly below pre-pandemic levels, although the picture is markedly different across areas of the UK.
Total footfall across shopping destinations in January was 17.1% lower than the same period in 2020, before the pandemic struck. However, this reflected a 1.5 percentage point improvement on December.
The increase against December was driven by the relaxation in Omicron-related pandemic restrictions and the reduction in Covid-19 cases over the month.
British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson said she hoped to see a further improvement in shopper numbers over the coming months.
“It was a slow start to 2022, with only minor improvements to UK footfall despite a significant decline in Covid cases,” she said.
“Indeed, it was quality over quantity in January; less people visited retail parks and shopping centres, but those who did went to more stores at each location. It is likely the January sales influenced this behaviour, encouraging consumers to shop around in their quest to find the best deals.”
High street footfall for the month was down 24.2% against pre-pandemic levels from two years earlier.
Shopping centres also continued to be the worst hit areas following the pandemic, with footfall down 37.5% against 2020 levels, and 0.9 percentage points below December’s performance.
Meanwhile, retail parks saw footfall down 13% on pre-pandemic levels, with this reflecting a 3.8 percentage point fall on December.
Northern Ireland again saw the shallowest footfall decline of all regions, with a 9.5% drop against the same month two years ago.
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “While total retail shopper traffic improved marginally on December’s figures, footfall’s recovery remains plateaued.
“January became the fourth successive month in which shopper counts struggled to reach the highest recovery levels seen back in October.
“With the Government dropping Covid Plan B curbs and work from home guidance, retailers will be hoping consumer confidence will also return along with the commuter trade to boost footfall and put a spring back in to the step of the high street’s recovery.”