Footfall “bad to worse” in January

In England, the current lockdown saw footfall decline by 78% year-on-year. This compares with a 76% decline during the second lockdown (5 Nov – 2 Dec), and 82% decline during the first lockdown (23 Mar – 15 Jun).

According to BRC-ShopperTrak data, with the UK in lockdown, year on year UK Footfall decreased by 76.9% in January, a 30.8 percentage point worsening from December. This is the largest drop in the UK footfall since May 2020 (-81.6%).

Footfall on High Streets declined by 73.3% year on year, the deepest decline since May 2020 (-77.8%). This is worse than both the 3- and 12-month average declines of 59.8% and 51.3%, respectively.

Retail Parks saw footfall decrease by 40.9% year on year, the deepest decline since May 2020 (-55.0%). This is worse than both the 3- and 12-month average declines of 26.9% and 26.3%, respectively.

Shopping Centre footfall declined by 78.2% year on year, the deepest decline since May 2020 (-84.9%). This is below the 3- and 12-month average declines of 59.9% and 52.6%, respectively.

Northern Ireland saw the shallowest footfall decline of all regions at -66.4%, followed by Scotland, at -72.5%. Wales saw the deepest decline at -79.1%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive of British Retail Consortium, said: “Footfall went from bad to worse in January, dropping by over three quarters. So far, retail locations in England are being hit harder than in the previous lockdown. Under tight restrictions for the whole month, shopping centres saw the biggest decline in footfall of all retail locations, overtaking high streets for the first time since July 2020.

“The drop in footfall clearly shows the public heeding Government advice to stay home where possible. Retailers have also been playing their part, stepping up safety measures wherever possible in order to keep staff and customers safe. Nonetheless, the future uncertainty for closed retailers puts many jobs and stores at risk. In the face of rising rents and return to full business rates liability from April, businesses are having to make business decisions about their future. Government must reassure those hardest hit by the pandemic that they will receive vital financial support. Without urgent action, including a targeted extension to business rates relief, we will continue to see the collapse of more stores and consequent loss of many more thousands of jobs.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for ShopperTrak, commented: “With the first full month of a new national lockdown, January certainly won’t have been the start to the year retailers were hoping for, as once more they had to shut up shop and inevitably footfall plummeted.

“But while it’s easy to let shuttered stores paint a bleak picture for the future of the High Street – with many retailers now having faced almost a full year of store reopenings and closures as waves of covid-19 have ebbed and flowed – it’s important to remember that when retail has reopened from lockdown, demand for in-store shopping has returned each time.

“And while the pandemic may have accelerated ‘Retail Darwinism’, those that have used this time as an opportunity to reset and invest in the operational foundations to meet new demands will be well placed to capitalise on pent-up demand for the in-person shopping experiences we have all been missing, as well as setting themselves up for strong, long-term growth.”