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Retail footfall rebounds in February but down 2.2% from 2023 levels

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The half-term break may have provided a boost for retail footfall in February, but store closures, rail strikes and storms meant that levels were lower than last year’s post-Christmas rebound.

According to the latest figures from MRI OnLocation, footfall across UK retail destinations rose by 8.3% in February from January. This follows the historical trend of a return to stores after the first month of every year.  

High streets witnessed a rise of 11.4% followed by shopping centres (+6.9%) and retail parks (+3.3%). Much of this activity was driven by the third week of the month, which is when half term fell across many regions. Half-term delivered a rise in activity of 15.3% in all retail destinations from the week before.

However, when compared with February 2023 – footfall declined by 2.2% across UK retail destinations for the second consecutive month. This was largely driven by a drop in footfall of 3.5% in high streets followed by shopping centres at a 2.3% dip. Retail parks continued to see a marginal rise of 0.9%.

“This may well be an indicator of the significant amount of brands, such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, and Boots, that have streamlined physical store operations over the last 12 months through closures; and for some locations these may act as anchor stores serving a vital role in driving footfall to that location,” noted Jenni Matthews, marketing & insights director, OnLocation for footfall analytics MRI Software.

“Financial pressures are mounting for consumers and this was evident in the final week of February when footfall declined by -8.6% across all retail destinations. Given that this was half term for some regions, we would naturally have anticipated a boost in activity but this may highlight consumers continuing to tighten their purse strings especially with payday not occurring until the end of that week for some.”

Looking ahead, Matthews said retailers could be optimistic. With Easter falling earlier than last year, retail destinations may benefit from the holiday build up starting around the third week of March.

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