Footfall figures slide with concerns over Omicron

UK footfall figures dropped by 18 per cent last month, compared to the same period in 2019, also with a 2.9 percentage decrease from October.

Shopping centres saw the biggest fall in people, with a 36.6 per cent decline from December 2019, with high street numbers dropping by 23 per cent. Retail parks fared a little better, only seeing figures decrease by 9.2 per cent from two years previous.

This is according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium and its Sensormatic IQ data. All 2021 figures are compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic), rather than year-on-year, in order to make “meaningful comparisons”, the organisation said, as 2020 was such a turbulent year with retail stores bouncing between being open and closed.

Northern Ireland saw the shallowest footfall decline out of the four nations at -10.8 per cent; Wales and England were almost on par, at -20.1 and -20.2 per cent respectively. For the fifth consecutive month, Scotland saw the deepest footfall decline at -22.8 per cent.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that surging Omicron cases and new work-from-home advice deterred many people from shopping in-store, particularly in towns and city centres.

“Nevertheless, footfall remained above levels of other major European economies, as the country avoided some of the more severe restrictions implemented elsewhere. Time will tell if shoppers return to their local high streets to embrace January sales and the arrival of spring collections.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, added: “While there weren’t any formal government restrictions, consumers self-policed social contacts and limited shopping trips in a bid to save their own Christmases. But this effectively stalled the high street’s recovery in the run up to the most important trading period, with shopper counts across all retail settings receding to the levels seen in August, wiping away the steady footfall recovery and gains we had seen up to November.”