High street footfall climbed in December despite rail strikes, reveals Springboard data

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Springboard data reveals UK shopper footfall rose by 5.8 per cent in December 2022 compared to the month before, despite the cost-of-living crisis and rail strikes.

The number of people out in shops, pubs and restaurants was 9.9 per cent higher than in December 2021 while the gap between pre-pandemic 2019 figures narrowed to 10.9 per cent from 11.4 per cent in November.

Footfall on the high street specifically was 12.7 per cent higher than in 2021 while shopping centres attracted 10.3 per cent more shoppers. There were also 3.6 per cent more people visiting retail parks than the same period last year.

There was a dip in shoppers on the penultimate week before Christmas, however, as rail workers went on strike. During this period footfall was 20.1 per cent lower than it was in 2019.

“There is no doubt that rail strikes impact retail and hospitality at the time they occur,” says Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard. “However, the longer-term impact of the strikes on December’s footfall appeared to be negligible, with the 5.8 per cent increase from November in line with Springboard’s forecast of 6 per cent published at the beginning of Q4 prior to the rail strikes being announced.

“What is also evident, is that while many employees worked from home in December due to the strikes, consumers were not deterred from visiting bricks-and-mortar stores and shifted some of their trips away from high streets to shopping centres and retail parks which can be more easily reached by car.

Wehrle adds: “Despite the positive outcome for retail destinations in December, it is indisputable that the strain on household budgets due to the cost-of-living crisis is likely to begin to tell in January, and that the first quarter of 2023 will be challenging for retail.

“In any event, we should expect footfall in January to be circa 20 per cent lower than in December, which is the magnitude of decline that has occurred in January in every year since Springboard started publishing its footfall data in 2009.”