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UK high streets end 2021 with a rise in footfall

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

4 Jan 2022


Image: FashionUnited

High street footfall increased by 5.2 percent on New Year’s Eve, compared with the week before on Christmas Eve, according to new data from retail analysts Springboard.

The data reveals that despite a footfall drop of 15 percent across all UK retail destinations last week versus the week before, in the run-up to Christmas, things looked up for high streets on New Year’s Eve with a rise of 5.2 percent, week-on-week. Which Springboard add is a “sharp contrast” with New Year’s Eve 2019 when high street footfall declined by 9 percent from the week before.

New Year’s Eve footfall in Central London rose by 54.8 percent compared with an increase of 22.7 percent on New Year’s Eve in 2019. This uplift wasn’t replicated in other city centres around the UK where footfall on New Year’s Eve was 0.8 percent lower than on Christmas Eve. Although, footfall also rose in historic town centres on New Year’s Eve, by 7.3 percent, and in Outer London by 5 percent, but declined by 8.2 percent in market towns.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said in a statement: “Despite the well-documented cautiousness of shoppers in the run-up to and over Christmas this year, it appears that on New Year’s Eve there was a shift in behaviour with footfall in high streets increasing from the week before (Christmas Eve). Not only was this the only day last week when high street footfall was higher than the week before, but it was also in sharp contrast with New Year’s Eve 2019 when high street footfall was lower on New Year’s Eve than on Christmas Eve.

“The winners on New Year’s Eve were Central London and historic town centres where footfall rose significantly from the week before, whilst declining in smaller local high streets.”

Retailers experience a rise in footfall on New Year’s Eve to end 2021 on a high

Springboard notes that for the seven days as a whole, between December 26 and January 1, high streets, retail parks and shopping centres all recorded double-digit declines. High street footfall dropped 11.8 percent, while shopping centre footfall fell by 19.2 percent, and footfall at retail parks declined by 17.5 percent.

However, the gap between last week and the week before narrowed from day to day as the week progressed, added Springboard, as on Sunday, Boxing Day, footfall was 43 percent lower than the previous Sunday but by Friday, New Year’s Eve, this had narrowed to a drop of 6.4 percent from Friday in the previous week, on Christmas Eve.

The final week of 2021 ended with footfall in UK retail destinations down 24.5 percent below the 2019 level, but 78 percent higher than the level in 2020, when much of the UK faced tighter Covid restrictions.

Wehrle added: “Overall, footfall last week, which began on Boxing Day and ended on New Year’s Day, was inevitably lower than in the preceding week which was the run-up to Christmas and ended on Christmas Day. The comparison with 2019 also continued to be unfavourable, with a noticeable drop from two years ago, however, some of this is due to the date offset as the equivalent week in 2019 began on December 29 and ended on January 4 so missing the days immediately post-Christmas when footfall is at its lowest.

“Last week was far more closely aligned to the same week in 2020 when there was only a one day offset (the week began on December 27 in 2020 rather than December 26 this year). However, the introduction of more severe restrictions immediately following Christmas last year meant that the uplift in footfall this year from 2020 increased significantly.

“Footfall across all UK retail destinations was lower than the previous week on every day bar Saturday (New Year’s Day), which was a trading day while Saturday in the week before was Christmas Day when all stores were closed. As the week progressed, footfall remained lower than the week before, although it did strengthen, with the most favourable result on Friday (New Year’s Eve).”