Omicron fears knock out Boxing Day footfall

Shopper traffic on Boxing Day fell, down 61.2% on pre-pandemic levels, the latest data from Sensormatic Solutions showed, as consumers stayed away amid Omicron fears and major retailers closed stores to say ‘thank you’ to staff.

Data from Sensormatic Solution’s footfall index, which captures 4billion shopper visits globally each year, has shown that High Streets were the worst impacted, down 65.9% compared to Boxing Day in 2019, while shopping centres only fared marginally better, falling to 58.2% compared to pre-pandemic levels.  Footfall in UK retail parks was down by over a third (33.5%) compared to Boxing Day in 2019.

Whilst rising concern among shoppers about the spread of the Omicron variant played its part in keeping the High Street quiet on what would traditionally have been a busy trading day, many major multiple retailers, including M&S, Next and John Lewis, as well as supermarket chains, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Aldi, decided to shut their stores, giving staff an extra day off to thank them for their hard work during the pandemic.

“Rising covid-19 infections and the rapid spread of Omicron has certainly dealt the High Street a Boxing Day blow,”

Andy Sumpter, EMEA Retail Consultant at Sensormatic Solutions

“However, we see the fall in footfall this year being particularly pronounced because so many retailers decided to close their stores on Boxing Day to give their staff a well-earned rest and an extra day off to spend time with their families over Christmas,” said Sumpter.

“We also saw many retailers bringing discounting forwards, with retailers like Boots and John Lewis starting what would have traditionally been their Boxing Day sales ahead of Christmas to drive up demand,” Sumpter continued. “This, combined with the extend discounting season around Black Friday, means many shoppers will have already made their bargain purchases, lessening the need for consumers to brave the sales in-store on Boxing Day itself.”

However, in spite of the trifecta of rising covid-19 cases, planned Boxing Day store closures and early extended discounting diminishing High Street footfall, Barclaycard’s data showed consumers’ appetite for Boxing Day sales remains; it estimates UK shoppers will spend £1.4billion online and £2.5billion in shops over the Boxing Day period.

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