Follow us


Weekend shoppers return as hybrid working becomes more established

Tom Bottomley
02 March 2023

UK footfall recovery to pre-pandemic levels is stronger at weekends, with the gap from February 2023 compared to February to 2019 standing at -9.3% at weekends compared to -15.4% during the weekday period.

It means retail is becoming increasingly dependent on weekend shoppers, with the latest data from retail analysts MRI Springboard finding that 56% of employees plan to work at home for at least part of the week – up from 53% in November 2022, and up from 50% in July 2022.

Other key findings covering the four weeks from 29 January - 25 February 2023 include:

  • Weekend footfall increased to 29.8% of the weekly total in February 2023, up from 28.9% in pre-pandemic February 2019.
  • Nearly a quarter of consumers who work in a hybrid way visit destinations less frequently now than before COVID-19, but those who spend longer on each trip has increased by a third since November 2022.
  • A quarter of consumers either combine shopping with leisure activities more and/or visit during the evening and at the weekend.
  • Footfall rose by 9.4% in February 2023 from January 2023. That was versus a drop of -18.8% in January 2023 from December 2022.
  • The gap in footfall from 2019 widened in February 2023 to -12.5% from -12.3% in January 2023; -15.1% in high streets, -16.1% in shopping centres and -3.3% in retail parks.
  • Footfall increased annually in February 2023 from February 2022 by 11% versus an annual increase in January 2023 of 10.7%.
  • Footfall in February 2023 was 16.1% higher in high streets than in February 2022, 9.7% higher in shopping centres and 1.4% higher in retail parks.
  • Footfall rose by 7.6% from the second to the third week of February due to the school half term, but it fell back by -5.3% from the third to the fourth week.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at MRI Springboard, said: “Despite the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, footfall in UK destinations in February was remarkably resilient with a 9.4% rise over the month from January. With the exception of 2021 this was the largest monthly increase in February since 2010.

“Footfall remained -12.2% below 2019 in February but the uplift from January suggests that this ongoing gap from the pre-pandemic footfall level is due more to a reduction in footfall as a consequence of hybrid working rather than the under-performance of retail. In fact, the evidence is demonstrating that with each passing month hybrid working is becoming even more established and is set to be an even more permanent way of working for many.

“Inevitably this is starting to reveal an emerging structural shift in consumer behaviour that is demonstrating that the weekend is becoming even more important in terms of generating footfall. This is evidenced very clearly by the greater recovery in footfall back to the pre-pandemic level during the weekend when there was a gap of just -9.3% in February compared with the weekday period, when footfall remained -15.4% below 2019.

“In addition to this, in February the weekend accounted for 29.8% of the total week’s footfall volume which has increased from 28.9% in 2019. With this ‘great return to the Saturday shopping day out’ we are seeing an increased demand from consumers wanting experience shopping versus necessity shopping, which means that retail destinations need to invest in their experience offer in order to keep consumers engaged.

“This is demonstrated by changes in shopping habits amongst those consumers who work in a hybrid way; nearly a quarter visit destinations less frequently than before COVID, those who spend longer on each trip has increased by a third since November 2022 and a quarter either combine shopping with leisure activities more and/ or visit during the evening and at the weekend.

“All of the evidence is therefore pointing towards a significant shift in the usage of retail destinations moving forward. This will ultimately act as a catalyst for business owners and managers to adapt their operations to focus even more on the weekend period if they are to prosper in the post-COVID economic environment.”

Free NewsletterVISIT