Footfall down more than 40pc in 2020

In-store shopping saw a huge decline of 43.4 per cent last year, according to figures by the British Retail Consortium (BRC.)

Research published by the BRC also found that year-on-year UK footfall decreased by 46 per cent in December.

This was an improvement of 19.3 per cent on the previous month, when England was facing tougher coronavirus restrictions that forced non-essential shops to close.

Over the five weeks 29 November 2020 to 2 January 2021, footfall on High Streets dropped by 49.5 per cent year-on-year, representing the worse performing location type for the fifth consecutive month.

Retail Parks saw footfall decrease by 17.3, slightly better than the 3-month average decline of 17.8 per cent, and worse than the 12-month average decline of 23.8 per cent.

While shopping centre footfall dropped by 47.3 per cent across the five weeks.

“After an encouraging start to the month Christmas shopper numbers dwindled as December progressed, due in large part to the creation of Tier 4 in England and increased restrictions elsewhere in the UK,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of British Retail Consortium. “High streets and shopping centres continued to see the most substantial decline in shoppers, as their ‘non-essential’ tenants were forced to close their doors during the weeks leading up to and following Christmas.

“London, the South East and Wales were hardest hit, with footfall dropping by over four fifths in the final week. However, it has been a hard year for the entire country, with footfall down by 43 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year.”

She said that now that the UK has entered a lockdown, non-essential stores will not be able to trade their way back into recovery, warning that a third lockdown will be one too many for some businesses.

Dickinson urged the government to reassure the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic that they will receive vital financial support in the form of an extension to the coronavirus business rates relief.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant – EMEA at ShopperTrak, said:“Not even the advent of festive season could turn around the fortunes of the High Street in December. As infection rates soared, fears of a mutated virus spread and Christmas gatherings were called into question or cancelled, it was really was a case of ‘the strain that stole Christmas’ for retailers, as footfall plummeted to nearly -50 per cent year-on-year."

He added: “December was a month of two halves, however – before footfall fell away as UK consumers faced the prospect of tougher restrictions, there was an initial recovery in retail footfall in the first two weeks of December, with shopper counts boosted by pent-up demand from November’s lockdown and shoppers’ get-ahead gift buying. While this soon plummeted in the second half of the month, it at least served to save some valuable Christmas trade.”

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