UK shopping footfall declines steeply with second lockdown

Kumutha Ramanathan
·Contributor
·2-min read
Shoppers queue outside Debenhams on Oxford Street after the department store chain announced it would be closing down for good. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty
Shoppers queue outside Debenhams on Oxford Street after the department store chain announced it would be closing down for good. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty

The UK faced a dramatic decline in shopping footfall as the nation was gripped with a second COVID-19 lockdown.

Footfall decreased by 65.4% year on year (YoY) in November, with a 31.9% drop from October, according to data published on Friday. This remains below the longer-term 12-month average decline of 38.5%.

“With the majority of stores closed, many missed out on the usual Black Friday boost to store visits as customers hunted for bargains online instead,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of British Retail Consortium.

High streets in particular were hard hit, dropping by 63.9% YoY. This was the worst performing location in November and for the fourth consecutive month.

A string of major high street retailers collapsed after facing major losses due to reduced shopping over the past few weeks, including Topshop owner Arcadia Group, women’s fashion chain Bonmarche and Debenhams failing to secure a buyer.

READ MORE: UK high streets in crisis as 200,000 jobs disappear in 12 months

Retail parks were not as badly impacted “thanks to a higher proportion of supermarkets and other essential stores in those locations, slightly mitigating the overall drop in footfall,” said Dickinson.

Regionally, Northern Ireland saw the most modest drop shopping centre footfall of all regions for the sixth consecutive month, down 21%, followed by Scotland lower by 38.9% and Wales falling by 45.6%.

Despite the bleak outlook for most of November, December brought some respite.

England’s non-essential shops and other businesses were permitted to reopen on 2 December for the first time in four weeks. As a result, footfall increased by 150% compared with the previous week (25 November) and decreased 26% on the previous year.

READ MORE: UK economic recovery went into reverse as second lockdowns hit firms

“Now that all of retail is open again, customers can get out and do their Christmas shopping confident that stores are COVID-secure and retailers are doing everything to keep them safe,” said Dickinson.

A three-tiered system of COVID-19 rules has also now come into force in the UK, with gyms and businesses, including hairdressers, being able to open.

At a Downing Street briefing, prime minister Boris Johnson said he accepted that the tiered system was "tough," but insisted that regional restrictions and mass testing were the way to "keep the virus under control."

WATCH: UK government’s coronavirus briefing – what you need to know