UK leads the way in retail footfall recovery among EU peers

·Reporter
·3-min read
Oxford Street, London
The BRC showed that overall footfall on high streets dipped 18.3% in October versus 2019, 4.3 percentage points above last month's rate, and above the 3-month average decline of 21.8%. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The number of people shopping on Britain’s high streets last month beat all major economies in the European Union, new data has shown.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), total UK footfall saw a 3.2 percentage point improvement in October compared with the month before, boosted by the school half term and Halloween.

However, it decreased by 13.7% when compared with a year-on-two-years basis.

The latest figures were compared with the same period before the pandemic, as retail in 2020 bounced between being open and closed, impacting footfall significantly.

But the figures did come in ahead of Europe, with Spain’s footfall down almost a fifth, Germany slumping 26.2%, and Italy and France declining 34.6% and 34.9%, respectively.

Traffic in Europe in October 2021 compared to October 2019. Chart: BRC
Traffic in Europe in October 2021 compared to October 2019. Chart: BRC

The BRC showed that overall footfall on high streets dipped 18.3% in October versus 2019, 4.3 percentage points above last month's rate, and above the 3-month average decline of 21.8%.

However, retail parks saw footfall only decrease by 0.4%, almost reaching its pre-pandemic level thanks to their offer of larger stores and free parking. They were also helped as retailers brought forward Christmas range launches to help smooth out supply chain issues head of the peak trading period.

Shopping centre footfall suffered the worst decline, down 33.6%, 2.6 percentage points above last month's rate and above the 3-month average decline of 34.3%.

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Within the UK regions, Northern Ireland saw the shallowest footfall decline at a fall of 10.8%, followed by Wales, down 13.1%, and England, slumping 13.7%. For the third consecutive month, Scotland saw the deepest decline of 17.0%.

Portsmouth stole the crown as best performing city, followed by Liverpool, Manchester and Belfast, while London, Glasgow and Birmingham brought up the rear.

“It was great to see the UK leading the way for footfall in October among the major European economies. This gives more retailers a reason to be hopeful as we enter the crucial golden quarter, with many embracing both digital and physical connections with their customers, and indicates that retail is playing a key part in the economic recovery,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of British Retail Consortium, said.

She added: “While many UK cities have seen a significant rise in footfall in recent months, the largest cities – London, Birmingham and Glasgow – continue to lag behind other areas. Lower tourism levels, more working from home and lower usage of public transport due to COVID have disproportionately affected these cities as a result, as well as holding back shopping in city centres across the UK.”

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