Growth in footfall slowed during February after the rush of Christmas shopping and January sales, says new data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
According to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor for February 2023, total UK footfall increased by 10.4% in February (YoY), 2.1 percentage points worse than January and worse than the 3-month average increase of 12.8%.
High Street footfall increased by 17.8% in February (YoY), 2.4 percentage points worse than last month’s rate and worse than the 3-month average rise of 18.4%.
Retail Parks saw footfall decrease by 3.3% in February (YoY), 0.2 percentage points better than last month’s rate but the same as the 3-month average decline of 3.3%.
Shopping Centre footfall increased by 11.7% in February (YoY), 0.7 percentage points worse than last month’s rate but marginally better than the 3-month average rise of 11.3%.
Wales saw the highest increase in footfall of all nations at 14.9%, followed by Scotland at 14.5% and Northern Ireland at 12.7%. England saw the lowest increase at 11.8%.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels (Yo4Y), Total Footfall was 8.8% lower; High Streets by 7.7%, Retail Parks decreased by 2.7%, and Shopping Centres by 23.3%.
Meanwhile, according to WRC-Sensormatic IQ data, Welsh footfall increased by 14.9% in February (YoY), 0.3 percentage points better than January. Shopping Centre footfall increased by 13.8% in February (YoY) in Wales, 8.2 percentage points better than January. In February, footfall in Cardiff increased by 12.2% (YoY), 3.2 percentage points worse than January.
According to SRC-Sensormatic IQ data, Scottish footfall increased by 14.5% in February (YoY), 2.3 percentage points better than January. This is better than the UK average of 10.4% (YoY). Shopping Centre footfall increased by 41.8% in February (YoY) in Scotland, 5.4 percentage points better than January. In February, footfall in Edinburgh increased by 27.8% (YoY) while Glasgow increased by 16.7% (YoY).
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Some people are making fewer visits as the cost of living continues to bear down ahead of the April energy price rise. Despite this, high streets continue to show the biggest improvement compared to last year, when concerns around Covid kept people away from town and city centres. Footfall at retail parks suffered as customers switched back to shopping centres and high streets, which are being buoyed by returns of the office commute.
“Consumer demand remains fragile, owing to the ongoing cost of living crisis and weak consumer confidence. Many retailers are investing in their store experience, and all continue to support customers with the cost of living. But it is vital that Government does not burden the retail industry with additional regulatory costs that hinder investment.”
Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, commented: “Facing multidirectional headwinds – from the long shadow cast by covid to the ongoing consumer caution caused by the rising cost-of-living – we are, at least, starting to see footfall normalising.
“While the fluctuations in footfall are now less volatile, creating a new baseline against which to benchmark High Street performance, it doesn’t mean the footfall recovery has yet fully turned a corner. Retailers are still grappling with underlying uncertainty as they try to keep pace in the context of these multifaceted challenges. Looking ahead, delivering value – whether that’s through ranging or by giving shoppers compelling reasons to visit stores – will remain central to turning the tide on footfall performance.”
Sara Jones, Head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, added: “Shopper footfall across Welsh retail destinations perked up further last month compared to the year before, encouraging news for the sector at what remains a challenging time given the costs crunch afflicting households and businesses. Visits to stores was up almost 15 per cent on the same month last year, with Wales recording the best footfall figures of the GB Nations. However, this was hugely flattered by the weak comparable period twelve months ago, when Welsh stores were still heavily under Covid restrictions and when consumer confidence was at a low.”
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Shopper footfall across Scotland’s retail destinations perked up further last month compared to the year before, encouraging news for the sector at what remains a challenging time given the costs crunch afflicting households and businesses. Visits to stores recorded a healthy 14.5 percent uplift on the same month last year, with Scotland one of the best performing parts of the UK. However, this was hugely flattered by the weak comparable period twelve months ago, when Scottish stores still operated under numerous Covid-era rules including the use of plexiglass screens, barriers between customers, and physical distancing in queues. All retail destinations benefitted from the uplift in foot-traffic last month, with the year-on-year improvement especially marked in shopping centres which suffered greatly during the pandemic.”