Shoppers appeared to be more willing to venture out to UK stores last week than in previous weeks, despite the continued lockdown and snowy weather across large parts of the UK, the latest footfall figures suggest. But visitor numbers are still well down on the same time last year.
The latest figures suggest footfall across UK retail destinations rose by 1.5% last week, compared to the week before – itself up by 6.7% on the week before that. But compared to the same time last year, UK footfall was still 61.4% down on the previous year.
The number of people visiting UK shopping centres last week improved on the previous week (+3.9%) but remains well down on last year (-70.9%). Visitors to high streets fell last week compared to the previous week (-1.7%) and the previous year (-69.3%). Visits to retail parks – which are more likely both to house essential stores and to enable click and collect pick-up of online orders – showed the most substantial improvement compared to the previous week (+6.1%) and the least sharp decline on the previous year (-34.4%).
The effect of snowy weather was shown as footfall declined by a week-on-week average of 7% between Sunday and Tuesday alone – but on the remaining four days, footfall rose by an average of 7%. Across the week, visitor numbers rose in regional cities (+1.7%) while falling in smaller market towns.
There were some regional variations, with visitor numbers down week-on-week in the East (-3%), Greater London (-1.9%) and Scotland (-0.9%) – and rising most strongly in Northern Ireland (+12.5%), followed by the North and Yorkshire (+5.7%), and the South West (+3.9%). But figures were down by at least 55.8% – in the South West – compared to last year, rising to a fall of 66% - in Scotland.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at retail intelligence business Springboard, says: “Despite Beast from the East 2 hitting virtually all of the UK at some point last week, footfall across retail destinations continued to rise from the week before. The weather did impact high streets, but it was more than compensated for by increases in footfall in shopping centres and retail parks.
“Last week was the fourth consecutive week in which footfall has increased from the week before, delivering ever more evidence that shoppers are experiencing lockdown fatigue and are increasingly willing to travel to retail destinations, whatever the weather. In fact, in the seven weeks since Lockdown 3 came into effect on Boxing Day, the only declines have been in the first three weeks of the lockdown, which included the two weeks following Christmas when footfall typically drops anyway.
“The drop in footfall from the same week last year is now the lowest it’s been since the second week of the lockdown.”