Dec 24, 2021
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City centres suffer despite overall Christmas Eve footfall rise

Dec 24, 2021

UK consumers were defying Omicron and going out to shop on Christmas Eve, perhaps justifying the strategy of those retailers that had held their nerve and resisted heavy discounting pre-Christmas.

Image: Public domain

But at the same time, the latest data from Springboard showed some less encouraging trends too with city centre flagships struggling to attract shoppers and London seeing a catastrophic drop.

Up to mid-day footfall across all UK destination was up 13.9% compared to Friday last week. But the increase in footfall in high streets was far more modest than that of retail parks and shopping centres. Friday footfall rose 23.6% in retail parks and 19.6% in shopping centres while high streets were up ‘only’ 6.7%. 

Of course, the increased activity in retail parks will in part be due to trips for food and grocery products as most retail parks have a food store.  However, since the start of Covid, retail parks have consistently been more resilient in retaining shoppers for other non-foods too, due to them being large open spaces, with big stores where shoppers feel less crowded. 

The lower increase in high streets versus last week was due to a decline in activity in city centres, particularly in Central London. In city centres outside London footfall dropped from last week by 10% and in Central London by a huge 30.3%.  

Meanwhile, footfall in smaller high streets and town centres rose. Visitor traffic varied across different types of town though and was up 14.3% in market towns, 26.3% in coastal towns and only 1.7% in historic towns. This has been the trend over the last few weeks, with shoppers “self-censoring and staying local rather than making trips to larger destinations where they feel at more risk of catching Covid”.

Footfall overall is higher year-on-year (+30.2%) given the more extreme pre-vaccination caution a year ago and the restrictions that were in place on December 24 2020. However, it remains 21% below that of Christmas Eve 2019.

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