Christmas footfall predicted to remain 17% below 2019 levels

“Widespread awareness” amongst consumers of potential supply issues will lead to them bringing their Christmas shopping forward earlier, with Black Friday expected to be more popular this year

Footfall across UK retail destinations will average -17% lower than in 2019 over the six week Christmas trading period from November 21 to January 4, continuing the current trajectory seen in September with footfall down -17.4%, according to a forecast by Springboard.

It projects Black Friday will be more popular this year, with week 47 (week beginning 21 November) seeing a boost in footfall of +7.9% and +6.5% in week 48, as the ‘widespread awareness’ amongst consumers of potential supply issues will lead to them bringing their Christmas shopping forward earlier.

This contrasts with the average uplift in footfall in Black Friday week of +5.1%
between 2014 and 2019 and +1.7% in Black Friday week in both 2018 and 2019.

This year, it said it projects that the drop in UK footfall from 2019 will be driven by high streets and shopping centres where, over this six week period, footfall will be -17.7% and -17.5% lower than 2019 respectively.

In contrast, in retail parks, where footfall has been more resilient throughout the pandemic, footfall will continue to strengthen and will average +5.5% higher than 2019 over the six week period.

Springboard said that retail parks are likely to be “particularly strong” over the last two weeks of the Christmas trading period, averaging +11.8% higher than 2019, as pre-Christmas food shopping is undertaken in the week running up to Christmas.

Footfall in large city centres will strengthen over the six week Christmas period, overtaking smaller high streets. This will contrast with UK footfall trends seen throughout the pandemic, as consumers look to seek out the Christmas shopping experience they missed last year.

The gap in footfall from 2019 in regional cities will average -15.8%, a 140.3% increase on 2020 levels, versus -16.9% in market towns, a 47.5% increase.

Meanwhile, Springboard also highlighted that footfall has declined on Boxing Day in every year since 2016, dropping by -8.6% in 2019 from Boxing Day in 2018, and it added that this trend is “unlikely to change”.

It comes as Boxing Day this year falls on a traditionally slow Sunday, and a number of leading retailers have already announced that they will not be opening.

In the week post Christmas, Springboard said that footfall in high streets and shopping centres could drop by around -20%, and this level of decline post Christmas has been a trend for the past decade.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “This year, the ongoing impact of the
covid-19 pandemic, along with the supply issue associated with the shortage of HGV drivers, which has already affected stock in food stores and led to the recent fuel crisis, will unfortunately cause further issues for bricks and mortar retailers over the Christmas trading period.

“In addition, the end of the furlough scheme, coinciding with recent increases in energy prices are likely to further dampen footfall as household spend on Christmas gifts is constrained and family experiences are favoured.”

She added: “Although footfall will be +80.9% stronger in comparison to 2020, this result is distorted as last year retailers were forced to close their doors for four weeks from the beginning of November, which overlapped with two of the six week Christmas trading period.

“Whilst footfall will rise over the Christmas trading period, it will remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, part of which is the long term shift of some spend online which has impacted footfall by around -1.5% per annum for the past decade.”

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