UK retail footfall down as country deals with political turmoil

UK retail destinations saw footfall decrease last week amid the country’s political unrest.

According to retail traffic counter and shopper analytics firm Springboard, footfall across the UK was down 2.3 per cent in the week commencing 17 October. High Streets suffered the most, with traffic down 3.3 per cent, while retail parks and shopping centres saw footfall down by 1.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

The report notes that footfall in retail parks and shopping centres did increase on two days out of the seven, though High Street footfall was down throughout the entire week.

Geographically, Scotland was the only region where footfall increased – growing by 1.1 per cent. Footfall dropped by more than the UK’s average of 2.3 per cent in six areas, including the West Midlands where it was down by 3.7 per cent.

The report’s findings were set against one of the most tumultuous weeks in modern UK political history, one which culminated in the resignation of Liz Truss as prime minister and leader of the Conservative party after 44 days.

The political uncertainty, combined with the UK’s ongoing cost-of-living crisis, has significantly impacted consumer spending power and desire to shop, says Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

“There are several factors at play in terms of what is driving consumer activity; however, the most evident is the squeeze on household incomes as a consequence of inflation and increased mortgage rates,” said Wehrle. “This, mixed in with the current political uncertainty, inevitably makes consumers cautious and then rail back on shopping trips.”

She continued: “This is likely to have been compounded by the prospect of school half term this week, which may well have meant that shoppers deferred trips last week. Footfall typically rises in the week of school half term as families visit retail destinations for group shopping trips and days out, so footfall this week will be a good barometer of current consumer sentiment and behaviour.”

New prime minister Rishi Sunak has delayed the UK’s fiscal statement to 17 November, likely leaving the retail sector holding its breath to see the new budget’s ramifications for consumer spending.

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