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December Footfall Drops To Less Than Half Of 2019 Figure

  • Latest figures show shopper numbers were down -72.3% for the week commencing 27 December compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Overall footfall in December after lockdown ended was down -53.7% year-on-year.
  • Areas with toughest local restrictions were hit hardest. Stores in Northern England suffered the least hardship, though the deficit on last year was still substantial at -44.8%.

Tougher COVID-19 restrictions kept shoppers away from post-Christmas sales in the last week of December, as footfall across the full four weeks after lockdown was lifted on 3rd December fell to less than half of the same period in 2019, according to the latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) from Ipsos Retail Performance.

The figures showed that in the non-food stores that could remain open following the imposition of tougher restrictions from Boxing Day, footfall was down by -72.3% on the year before for the week commencing 27 December.

Stores in Northern England suffered the least hardship, though the deficit on last year was still substantial at -44.8%.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, explained:

“At a time when we would normally expect the stores to be full of winter sale bargain hunters, Christmas voucher spenders and gift exchangers, helping the old year finishing with a flourish, 2020 has ended instead in a quiet whimper.

“The widescale re-opening of non-essential stores from 3 December as part of the lift from lockdown was designed to help households enjoy some semblance of a normal Christmas and New Year, but the rapid transmission of the new strain of COVID-19 during December prevented this from happening. Instead, people have largely been acceptant of making the best of a quiet festive period where, despite its official classification as a white Christmas, for many the only thing outside that was white was the home delivery van.”

Ipsos Retail Performance collects data from over 600 towns and cities across the UK, and for over 25 years its Retail Traffic Index has been the industry’s leading tracker of national, regional and sector retail footfall trends. It is also co-founder of the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank, offering thought leadership on the state of retail health and the future of retailing.

Looking ahead, Tim added:

“With trading figures being announced over the next week or so, we can but hope that online sales have helped salvage the performance of most non-essential goods retailers. No doubt the headlines will be grabbed by those that end up failing, but in truth they should be about celebrating all those retailers that have not just made it through the year, but have managed to adapt at speed, adjust their business models and became re-energised.

“Going into another lockdown at the start of the new year won’t be easy for many to weather, but let’s be thankful for the digital technology that has saved retail and enables retailers to continue to serve their customers, until such a time as we can all enjoy physical retailing safely again.”

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