Footfall on the UK’s high streets has fallen by three per cent in seven days as local lockdown restrictions dealt a new hammer blow to retailers today.
The annual decline in footfall across the UK reached a staggering 32.9 per cent last week, with the biggest annual fall in Wales at 40.3 per cent in the wake of stringent new lockdown measures.
Northern Ireland has seen a drop of some 40.1 per cent, with a further 38.2 per cent in Scotland, where lockdown measures have been tightened in recent days.
The number of people shopping at UK retail destinations – including high streets, shopping centres and retail parks – dropped by 1.2 per cent last week, according to retail experts Springboard’s latest data.
It was only around a third of the week-on-week decline of 3.1 per cent the week before. But it is not known yet the extent Wales’ firebreak lockdown coupled with half-term school holidays could impact next week’s figures.
Most of last week’s fall was suffered by high streets – as footfall declined by 0.1 per cent in shopping centres and actually rose by 1.3 per cent in retail parks.
The number of people shopping at UK retail destinations – including high streets, shopping centres and retail parks – dropped by 1.2 per cent last week, according to retail experts Springboard’s latest data. Pictured, an almost deserted high street in Cardiff
The annual decline in footfall across the UK reached a staggering 32.9 per cent last week, with the biggest annual fall in Wales at 40.3 per cent in the wake of stringent new lockdown measures
Warrington high street. Most of last week’s fall was suffered by high streets – as footfall declined by 0.1 per cent in shopping centres and actually rose by 1.3 per cent in retail parks
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: ‘The appeal of retail parks to shoppers with their ease of access by car, free parking, open air environments and large stores alongside the presence of a food store in the majority is once again being demonstrated, with increases in footfall from the week before in this destination type across all four UK nations.’
Last week it was revealed footfall in central London has collapsed by 60 per cent compared to 2019, while the figure for regional cities is down by around 50 per cent.
More than 11,000 chain store outlets closed during the pandemic while others are on the brink amid an estimated 255,000 job losses.
Springboard’s figures show the number of people out shopping in Scotland fell by 2.7 per cent last week alone.
There were 3.8 per cent fewer shoppers out in Wales as it brought in its circuit-breaker lockdown and in Northern Ireland footfall plummeted by triple that – at 12.2 per cent.
In Northern Ireland, as across the UK as a whole, it was in high streets that footfall was most impacted with a decline of 15.5 per cent. This compared to 2.6 per cent in shopping centres and a rise of 1.5 per cent in retail parks.
High street footfall in Northern Ireland was impacted across the entire day, but more severely in the period post 5pm when it dropped by 29.7 per cent versus 15.3 per cent in Wales, 9.9 per cent in Scotland and by an average of 2.1 per cent across England.
In Wales, footfall over the week fell by 3.8 per cent but most of the decline happened on Saturday when the firebreak came into effect.
It caused an immediate week-by-week drop of 66.3 per cent as people were banned from buying non-essential items.
Aisles with products deemed non-essential were covered up by tape in supermarkets across the country over the weekend, as officials ensured independent businesses that had been forced to closed were not unfairly targeted by the two-week firebreak.
It led to anger today when one supermarket closed its tampon and feminine hygiene products aisle because of a break in.
Shocked shoppers thought the items had been deemed non-essential and took to social media to complain.
The Welsh Government insisted: ‘This is wrong – period products are essential.
‘Supermarkets can still sell items that can be sold in pharmacies. Only selling essential items during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops. It should not stop you accessing items that you need.’
The latest figures showed the drop in footfall on an annual basis in Wales moved from an average of 33.3 per cent over the first six days of the week to 76.6 per cent on Saturday, which is the greatest annual drop in footfall in Wales on a single day since June 6.
Ms Wehrle said: ‘The range of additional restrictions that came into effect at the end of last week have not yet had a noticeable impact on footfall in retail destinations generally across the UK.
‘However, with the exception of Wales which entered a fire break for 17 days, retail stores are continuing to trade which together with fact that the restrictions commenced on Saturday – the last day of the week period – mitigated the impact on the week as a whole.’
She said the situation was ‘more nuanced’ across the rest of the UK, adding that there were ‘far greater declines’ in footfall in the devolved nations.
A couple wearing protective face coverings pass a closed shop in Oxford Street in London, on October 17. Last week it was revealed footfall in central London has collapsed by 60 per cent compared to 2019, while the figure for regional cities is down by around 50 per cent
A woman wearing a protective face covering checks her phone as she walks down the centre of Oxford Street in London, on October 17
‘The greatest decline in footfall occurred in Northern Ireland, which was impacted across the day, but particularly post 5pm as hospitality closed their doors on Saturday,’ she said.
‘In Wales footfall plummeted on Saturday, the first day of the closure of non-essential retail stores, resulting in a year on year decline on that one day that was equivalent of the drop in footfall during the lock down.’
Meanwhile, traffic congestion in the capital has plummeted this week following the start of the half-term break.
During the rush-hour peak today, the level was at just 31 per cent, which is down from 46 per cent last week and last year’s average of 52 per cent.