Double blow to UK footfall on Boxing Day – shopper traffic falls -87%

UK Boxing Day footfall slumped -87% year-on-year yesterday (26 December), Sensormatic’s retail data from ShopperTrak, revealed.

The latest data from ShopperTrak’s footfall index, which captures 40 billion shopper visits each year, showed that across all retail settings, including High Streets, shopping centres and retail parks,  total footfall dropped to its lowest point since the start of the pandemic.

In the first lockdown, footfall’s lowest month was -85% year-on-year, while yesterday shopper traffic plummeted to -87% year-on-year on Boxing Day, with High Streets worst affected as shopper numbers fell to -92% compared to 2019.

The plummeting footfall figures were both due to tightened covid-19 restrictions, forcing non-essential retail businesses to close in Tier 4 areas, but also the decision by many retailers, including Aldi, Asda, John Lewis, M&S and Home Bargains, to close their stores on Boxing Day to give staff an extra day off.

Even in Tier 2 and 3 areas where non-essential retail remained open, footfall struggled.

Liverpool, currently in Tier 2, saw footfall down -67% year-on-year, while in Tier 3 Leeds shopper numbers were also down -66%.

Glasgow, in the strictest Scottish tier of restrictions saw the biggest fall in shopper counts across the UK, down -99.7% compared to 2019.  Elsewhere, London footfall dropped – 99.2%, Portsmouth dipped to -99.5% and Cardiff’s shoppers numbers fell to -98.4%.

Traditionally one of the landmark days for retail during the Christmas period, shopper traffic on Boxing Day itself has been declining in recent years.  This is due in part by the acceleration of online sales, as well as retailers extending their discounting strategies for longer periods in December, with many now running promotions from November’s Black Friday right through to the January sales.  Last year, footfall on Black Friday fell 11.8% year-on-year.

Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic’s Retail Consultant EMEA for ShopperTrak, commented:

“With further Tier 4 restrictions coming into force at midnight on Boxing Day, plunging almost half of the population into the strictest bracket, it’s unsurprising shoppers stayed away as retailers were once again forced to close.  Amid fears of rising infections and concerns about the new coronavirus strain undermining consumers’ confidence, retailers have been dealt yet another blow as Storm Bella threatens to further dampen shoppers’ spirits in what remains a torrid time for the High Street.”

“While the figures make for grim reading, with shopper traffic down -87% on Boxing Day, the High Street’s fight for survival is far from over.  Time and again, we’ve seen the public’s continued support for local stores return when retail has reopened – at the end of the second lockdown in November, for example, shopper traffic rose +193% nationally week-on-week in an overwhelming show of support.  Retailers will be hoping, when restrictions are eased and they can reopen, that consumers will once again vote with their feet and deliver valuable trade to High Street businesses.”

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