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Festive shopping boosts December footfall

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The latest data from retail analysts MRI Software (previously Springboard) has shown that footfall across UK retail destinations rose by 6.1% from November to December, boosted by the final trading week before Christmas with footfall up by 11.2%.

Despite wintery weather and rail disruption, coupled with challenging economic conditions, December witnessed a surge in footfall. Shopping centres led the charge with a rise in footfall of 11.1% in December from November. This was followed by retail parks (+5.9%) and high streets (+3.7%). MRI Software said this is indicative of the diverse offerings of shopping centre destinations, from eating out to a multitude of retail brands, making them a preferred choice for consumers during the festive season.

Compared to 2022, footfall rose marginally by 0.2% across all UK retail destinations, however this was largely driven by activity in high streets where footfall rose by 1.2%, versus a modest rise of 0.1% in retail parks. Shopping centres witnessed a decline of 1.9%.

Furthermore, the month of December witnessed an improvement in footfall performance from the 2019 level as it narrowed to -10.4% across all UK retail destination. This was the second best result recorded for the year, following June’s result when it was -8.6% lower than 2019.

In high streets this narrowed to -11.4% from -12.6% in the month before, shopping centres witnessed an improvement to -16.7% from -17.1% in November. Retail parks also noticed this improve to -1.5% from -2.2% in the month prior.

Boxing day and beyond
The week between Christmas and New Year tends to follow a historical trend of lower footfall from the week before. In 2023, Boxing Day footfall was 4% higher than Boxing Day 2022, primarily driven by high streets (8.8%). Whereas retail parks and shopping centres both experienced a year-on-year decline of 1%.

Despite the increase, footfall on Boxing Day remained 14.9% lower than 2019 levels, indicating continued travel or the growing trend to use this day to shop online which may have even started as soon as Christmas Day.

Central London witnessed the most notable uplift in footfall year on year on Boxing Day (10.6%) and observed a 1.6% rise in activity compared to 2019. Throughout the week, footfall levels continued to rise from 2022 levels across historic, market and coastal town types.

Looking ahead to January and 2024
A natural post-Christmas slump is anticipated, with footfall projected to decline in the region of -20% to -25%. Weather warnings and a one week delay in the return to school for many regions across the UK, may lead to subdued footfall at the start of the month. However, this should improve as the month progresses, compared to 2023 levels, particularly with more and more employees returning to offices. The financial constraints felt in the latter part of 2023 for many consumers are likely to continue into the early part of 2024 which may also impact footfall in UK retail destinations.

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