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Record heat and rising cost-of-living kept UK shoppers at home in July

The number of people visiting UK shops was well below pre-pandemic levels – and falling – in July as record heat and the rising cost-of-living kept shoppers at home, the latest figures suggest.

UK footfall was 14.2% lower in July than it was in the same month in pre-pandemic 2019, according to the BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor for July 2022. That’s 3.7 percentage points (pp) lower than in June 2022, and below the three-month average decline (-12.3%). 

Shopping centre visitor numbers were almost a quarter (-24.8%) lower than in 2019, but only 0.7pp below the previous month, according to the BRC figures. Visitor numbers were above the three-month average decline (-25.1%). 

On high streets, football was 15.9% lower than in July 2019, and 2pp  lower than in June 2022. It was also below the average three-month trend (-14.4%). At retail parks, footfall was 9.1% lower than the same month in 2019. It was also 1pp lower than the previous month, and below the average three month decline of 8.2%.

“Following four months of steady progress, UK footfall stalled in July as record temperatures and the rising cost-of-living deterred people from visiting local shops,” says Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium. “There was some respite in the last week of July, ahead of the Women’s Euros finals, as people stocked up on food and drink to watch the Lionesses bring footfall home. Meanwhile, footfall in Northern Ireland bucked the UK trend and improved slightly on the previous month.”

Footfall was nonetheless down in all the nations of the UK, including Northern Ireland (-12.3% on 2019) , England (-14%), Wales (-15.8%) and Scotland (-16.5%), according to the BRC figures. 

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA at Sensormatic Solutions, says: “July delivered a smorgasbord of summer disruption for retailers, as the ongoing rail strikes derailed footfall gains and the UK’s record-breaking heatwave saw shoppers shun the shops for several days as the temperatures soared.”

Meanwhile, Springboard figures suggest that July footfalll was 14.2% below 2019, worsening from -12.3% in June 2022. That includes declines in high streets (-17%), shopping centres (-18.6%) and retail parks (-3.5%). In the third week of the month, it found that footfall was 16.4% lower than 2019, down from 12.9% lower than the previous week, and puts that down to the extreme heat. 

Springboard also found that UK footfall during the month was 15.6% higher than in July 2021, where June footfall had been 14.2% above 2021. It saw evidence of a north/south divide, with the effect of inflation being felt harder in the north. It says that compared to 2021, football in the north and Yorkshire was 8.9% higher, while in greater London it was three times higher at 27.4%.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, says: “Whilst footfall remains lower than the 2019 level, the trend from month to month in 2022 over the seven months to the end of July averaged +1% versus an average of -0.5% over the pre-Covid decade, demonstrating the demand from shoppers for in-store shopping.” 

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, Soringboard expects footfall to stay steady or even fall slightly in August before declining further in September.

“Looking forward towards the remainder of the year, we would normally expect footfall to peak in August and then dip in September as the school summer break ends,” says Wehrle. “However, in the light of the increasing strain on household budgets as a consequence of inflation, this year we are anticipating that in August footfall will plateau or even drop away marginally by circa -1% from July followed by a decline of around -3% over the month between August and September.”

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