Footfall improves throughout 2022 but remains 14% behind 2019

UK footfall improved throughout 2022, but there still remains a “significant” 14.2% gap to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, according to Springboard’s annual retail review for 2022.

However, the figure does mark “a steady improvement”, from -20.8% below 2019 in January 2022 to -10.9% in December 2022.

The uplift from 2021, however, varied significantly between the four months to April when the comparison with the lockdown period in 2021 meant that footfall rose by +104.4% over the year and the eight months from May when footfall was +10.8% above the 2021 level.

The extent of the recovery in footfall also varied across the UK; the areas that performed best in terms of the balance between the recovery back to the pre-pandemic footfall level and the annual increase from 2021 were Greater London, the East, the East Midlands and Wales.

Between May and December, footfall in the Greater London region- which includes both Central London and Outer London – rose by +19.1% and was -8.2% lower than in 2019.

In the East, footfall rose by +10.5% from 2021 and was -8.5% lower than in 2019, in the East Midlands footfall rose by +9.7% from 2021 and was -14.3% lower than in 2021 and in Wales footfall was +10.9% higher than in 2021 and -13.3% lower than in 2019.

Springboard also pointed towards the ongoing trend for localism driven by hybrid working. Springboard’s Retail Consumer Survey identified that in 2022 an average of 55% of consumers worked at home for at least some days each week.

This meant the impact of hybrid working on footfall has largely been evident in a lower rate of recovery back to the 2019 level in high streets during weekdays, as it is high streets – with its concentration of offices – that feel the impact of the drop in office based workers to a greater degree than shopping centres or retail parks which are predominantly retail-based locations.

Over the 12 months in 2022 high street footfall during weekdays remained -18.2% below the 2019 level but during the weekends it recovered to -11.8% below 2019.

Diane Wehrle, Insights director at Springboard, said: “The question on everyone’s lips now that we are firmly in the midst of the pandemic recovery period, is what are the trends that are going to be prevalent during 2023? Unbeknown at the time of the pandemic was the cost of living crisis and resulting increase in inflation that would await consumers and impact on spending during the latter part of 2022, which will continue through to 2023 and most likely beyond.

“Inevitably, this will act as a constraint to the number of trips made to retail destinations as household budgets come under increasing strain. Alongside this, however, is the positive trend for the desire of shoppers to return to shopping in store, evident from the reduction in the significance of online spending and the steady recovery in footfall towards the 2019 level.”

She added: “At the same time, however, hybrid working is now an established feature of the UK economy and will act as a further downward pressure on the recovery of footfall to the 2019 level. Whilst hybrid working and the ability of stores and destinations to adapt will be a key factor in determining their success, the fact is that in the absence of Covid footfall across UK destinations would have declined each year anyway.

“Over the decade that Springboard has been publishing its data, footfall declined by an average of -1.3% per year each year from 2009, and so in even the absence of Covid, footfall across UK retail destinations would now be circa -4% lower than in 2009. Taking this into account, with all things being equal footfall will not return to pre-pandemic footfall levels, and in 2023 Springboard anticipates that the gap from 2019 will settle at between -5% and -10%.”

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