High streets get boost from busiest month for shopping since pandemic

Footfall in December reached its highest level since the pandemic, as shoppers flocked to stores in search of Christmas gifts.

Data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that overall footfall during December was 15.1 per cent higher than the same month in 2021.

However, according to retail analyst Springboard, gains are likely to be lower this month as shoppers cut back and stay home. It predicted there would be a record drop in footfall in Britain in January as strikes and the cost of living crisis keep consumers from visiting shops.

Diane Werle, Springboard’s Director of Marketing and Insights, said: “[Footfall in January] Might be the worst on record. This is about to get serious. The decline is usually around 20 per cent, but it can easily be 30 per cent because of rail strikes as well as the cost of living crisis.

She said: “It doesn’t take much to affect arrivals and if people are looking for an excuse not to spend money, the rail strike is a perfect excuse. It will affect retail, and it will affect hospitality.

Buoyed by the festive period and the absence of Covid restrictions, UK brick-and-mortar retailers recorded an improvement in December. The BRC said the number of people shopping on the High Street increased by 19.7 per cent compared to December 2021, while activity in out-of-town shopping centers increased by 13.4 per cent.

However, there was a large disparity in the number of shoppers across UK cities. Footfall in London was down 12.3 per cent during 2022 compared to 2019 before the pandemic, while it was up 9.3 per cent in Belfast. Manchester was the only other city in the UK to record an increase in footfall compared to 2019, with the number of shoppers up 2.6 per cent.

Total footfall figures in 2022 remained below pre-pandemic levels, with annual shopper counts down 11.8 percent from 2019. Still, it was an improvement from 2021, when footfall was 33.2 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said: “Historically low consumer confidence and 30-year high inflation have made for an exceptionally difficult year for consumers and retailers, with sales down more than 10 per cent on pre-pandemic levels Has come Nonetheless, it was still a significant improvement over the past two years when the pandemic kept many people at home.

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