Footfall shows signs of Omicron hesitancy

Whilst footfall in Central London rose by +0.5%, the early impact of the Omicron variant is suggested by a -2% decline in Springboard's Central London Back to the Office Benchmark and a -3.8% drop in footfall in regional cities outside of the capital

Footfall rose by only 0.7% in UK retail destinations last week against the week before, according to new data from retail expert Springboard.

It said that the uplift was derived from rises in shopping centres that saw an increase of 2.3%, and retail parks where footfall increased by 1.3%. Meanwhile, footfall in high streets declined marginally by -0.4%.

Although footfall in Central London rose by 0.5%, it was from an uplift in retail areas by 1.8% which shows a focus on Christmas shopping.

However, Springboard suggested the early impact of the Omicron variant was felt by a -2% decline in its Central London Back to the Office Benchmark.

In addition, footfall in large cities outside the capital declined by -3.8% from the week before, whilst it rose by 1% in small market towns as more shoppers stayed local.

Footfall over the week was impacted by a decline on Friday of -5% overall, and by -10.3% in shopping centres which were hit by a strong rise on Black Friday in the previous week.

This halved the uplift from the week before, with footfall rising by 0.7% over the seven day period, but over the six days excluding Friday by 1.6%.

However, some of the decline was offset by a rise in footfall on Saturday – the first day of the Christmas shopping period for many – of 6.6% across all retail destinations and 9.8% in high streets.

The gap in footfall from the 2019 level stood at -17.4% last week, but footfall was 43% higher than in 2020.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, commented: “Footfall in UK retail destinations last week was inevitably more subdued last week than the previous week which had included Black Friday.

“Footfall rose marginally, and it was wholly driven by uplifts in activity in retail parks and shopping centres whilst there was a modest decline in high streets. The strong comparison of Black Friday in the week before meant the drop in footfall on Friday was significant enough to halve the uplift in footfall over the seven day period.”

She added: “Last week also provided the first evidence of an early impact on footfall of the Omicron variant; Springboard’s Central London Back to the Office benchmark (comprising only those areas in close proximity to offices) declined last week from the week before.

“This points to the fact that whilst Central London is being supported by its retail and leisure offer in the run up to Christmas, large city centres outside of the capital are not benefiting, substantiated by a rise in footfall in smaller market towns across the UK as shoppers stayed local rather than venturing further afield.”

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