The month of September in the UK saw a continued slowdown in footfall growth, with high streets being the most heavily impacted. A report from Springboard revealed that customer activity decreased in September, especially on high streets, indicating a slower recovery in footfall compared to the previous year when all Covid restrictions were lifted.

From August 28th to October 1st, footfall on high streets was only 9.5% higher than the same period in 2021, while shopping centers experienced a 7.7% increase. However, high streets had seen a more promising 13.9% increase in footfall in August compared to the previous year. Shopping centers also saw a slight improvement with a 7.5% increase in activity during August. On the other hand, footfall in retail parks remained relatively stable, with just a 0.3% increase in September compared to 2021.

In comparison to pre-Covid levels in 2019, the gap in footfall narrowed in September. Footfall was 12.6% lower in September 2021 compared to 2019, a slight improvement from the 13.2% decrease observed in August. High streets were hit the hardest, experiencing a 14.4% decline compared to three years ago. Shopping centers saw a 16.7% decrease, while retail parks were 4.3% lower.

There are several challenges contributing to the slower recovery on high streets. Inflation and the impact of hybrid working have had a significant influence on footfall. With many employees still working from home for part of the week, high street activity remains significantly lower than in 2019, particularly on weekdays. In fact, footfall on UK high streets during weekdays in September was 17.4% lower than in 2019. Weekends saw a somewhat smaller decrease of 6.9%.

The implementation of the government’s energy price guarantee has provided some relief for households. However, ongoing inflation and recent interest rate hikes mean that consumers will be more cautious in their spending habits from October onwards. This will likely have an immediate impact on footfall and retail sales, with fewer trips expected to larger centers that require higher travel costs. This trend has been seen in previous recessionary periods when shoppers were encouraged to support local businesses.

Despite these challenges, Springboard suggests that smaller, more local high streets could benefit from greater resilience, as this was a key trend during the pandemic. Overall, while footfall growth in the UK is slowing, it is not yet coming to a complete halt. There may still be opportunities for recovery and resilience in certain areas.

Useful links:
1. Springboard – Official website of Springboard, an intelligence provider for the retail industry.
2. Government energy price guarantee – Information on the government’s energy price guarantee to protect households and businesses from high energy prices.