Christmas retail footfall “a significant improvement on previous two years”

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Retail footfall was the highest since the pandemic began this Christmas as shoppers hit high streets and shopping centres, reveals the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ data.

Covering the five weeks from 27 November to 31 December 2022, shopper numbers were only 7.3 per cent lower than the same period in 2019.

High streets saw the biggest uptick in visitors compared to the previous month (+4.3 per cent) followed by shopping centres (+3.3 per cent). Retail parks, however, saw footfall decrease by 1 per cent on November.

On a year-on-year basis, total retail footfall in the UK rose by 15.1 per cent with high street visitors increasing by 19.7 per cent and shopping centres by 13.4 per cent.

Total UK footfall for 2022 was 11.8 per cent below pre-pandemic levels – a vast improvement on 2021, which was 33.2 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, comments: “Footfall reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic in December. A combination of rail disruption and the cold snap kept many shoppers from visiting town centres and high streets in the last week before Christmas. Meanwhile, the postal strikes forced others to head in for the last week to secure last minute gifts in-store.

“Historically low consumer confidence and 30-year-high inflation made for an exceptionally difficult year for consumers and retailers, with footfall down over 10 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. Nonetheless, this was still a significant improvement on the previous two years when the pandemic kept many people at home. Although retailers’ input costs show little sign of easing in 2023, they continue to do all they can to keep prices affordable and tempt customers in.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, adds: “Physical retail rallied in December, with store performance last month posting its best footfall counts compared to pre-pandemic figures all year. Retailers rose above an onslaught of festive disruption, from snow chaos to rail and mail strikes impacting consumers’ shopping journeys both on and off-line, disrupting pre-Christmas travel to shopping hubs and creating online delivery backlogs and delays. And, once again, it was the in-store teams that kept retailers’ doors open and able to continue to serve their customers and communities. 

“Looking ahead to 2023, retailers will be hoping for more stability and support to help them chart a trading course for success in the light of continued economic headwinds, as they adapt their retail offers to the needs of the cost-of-living consumer.”