After-Christmas sales continue to plummet, with shoppers’ footfall still far below levels pre-pandemic. This despite Boris Johnson refusing any Covid restrictions to be enforced before the new year.
It was significantly less than the number of bargain shoppers who went to the stores during lunchtime in 2019 – well before Covid’s sweeping through the country.
Today’s footfall in central London was 56% lower than on December 28th, a Saturday in 2019.
Shopper numbers in market towns were also down, at 51% less than the time last year. Shoppers in the South East experienced the greatest resurgence, with their numbers falling by 27.9 percent.
Analysts have suggested the slump is down to a continuing fears about the high rate of Covid infections, with England reaching a record high of 113,628 new cases on Christmas Day and 1,281 people being admitted to hospital.
Businesses and hospitality venues were however buoyed yesterday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not put any more curbs on shoppers or partygoers in December.
Shoppers using public transport also faced chaotic journeys travelling into city centres such as London because of engineering works and staff shortages.
Post-Christmas sales have continued to slump will shoppers’ footfall far below pre-pandemic levels. Footfall in a wet and cold central London today was 56 per cent down on December 28, a Saturday, in 2019. Pictured: Oxford Street in London
The number of bargain hunters heading to stores this lunchtime was ‘substantially below’ the same period in 2019, well before Covid had swept through the country
Wet and windy weather across most of the England and Wales has also not helped to inspire shoppers who could otherwise buy online.
The Met Office warned of cloud, strong winds and heavy rain sweeping across the UK over the next three days, although the Bank holiday weekend could bring ‘exceptionally mild’ conditions.
The figures are however, as expected, significantly higher than the same period in 2020, when the country was under much tighter restrictions.
Footfall on UK high streets is, for instance, up 57.2 per cent compared to the December 28 in 2020 – a period when millions moved online for the Boxing Day sale shopping.
Retail parks across the UK are also performing much better than the high street, with just an 11.3 per cent reduction in footfall compared to 2019.
Analysts suggest that the current slump may be caused by continuing worries about Covid infections. England had 113.628 new Covid cases in December, and 1281 patients were admitted to hospitals. Pictured: Shoppers in Birmingham city centre
Shoppers could also be discouraged from buying online because of the wet, windy conditions in England and Wales. Pictured: Flooding on the A3 in south west London
Today will see many areas hit with rain or showers before sunny spells begin to arrive from the west. Temperatures could reach 11C in Southampton and -4C in Loch Glascarnoch
However, these figures were expectedly higher than those for the same time in 2020 when there was much more restriction. Pictured: Birmingham
Easy access to cars and the ability to shop in small towns is what’s driving this trend.
Springboard, an analytics company that provides retail intelligence, collated the footfall data. It reported that the main reason for lower footfalls was the consumers’ anxiety about Covid’s infection rate.
Diane Wehrle is the Insights Director at the company. She stated that footfall to noon today was similar to the Boxing Day or 27th December levels. However, to the hour of 12pm today, it fell to -34.8% lower than the 2019 average across all retail locations.
Retail parks attracted a proportionately higher number of shoppers over the two-day period than shopping centers or high streets. This could be due to shoppers buying food post Boxing Day.
“Footfall today in retail parks was just 11.3% less than 2019 while high streets were -42.9% lower than 2019 and shopping centres, -40.6% below 2019.
The ‘Footfall as of 12pm today was considerably lower than that of 2019 in all kinds of towns centre. However, the biggest drop occurred in Central London (-56%), which is partly due to train cancellations restricting shoppers’ access into London.
“Despite the fact that there were more restrictive restrictions in place in devolved countries, footfall at 12 p.m. today wasn’t significantly out of line with England.
“While shoppers may be nervous about Omicron’s arrival, retailers have some hope. Footfall at 12pm today was +49.8% more than in 2020 and +92% on Boxing Day. However, this could partly be due to Boxing Day being on a Sunday in 2020 rather than a Monday in this year.
This slump does not seem to be due to Covid fears alone. It also affects shoppers who use public transport to reach central London or other major cities.
TransPennine Express Rail Operators, ScotRail Avanti West Coast Rail, Northern Rail and LNER all reported issues yesterday on their networks.
For instance, strikes orchestrated by RMT union are likely to cause havoc on East Midlands Railway services. They will be affected up until January 2.
National Rail has insisted that 95 per cent of the network will remain open over the festive period despite the wave of disruptions.
It added that the 370 engineering projects it is carrying out over Christmas were planned ‘months, and in some cases years, in advance’.
Covid’s increase in staff absenteeism caused by Covid reached 9 per cent during the Christmas season.
CrossCountry, which operates routes between Scotland and England, was hit by strikes on Christmas Eve with further industrial action expected on New Year’s Eve.
Planned engineering work will cause disruptions to the network, which could result in trains not being able to stop at Bristol Parkway from December 27 to December 31.
Other Great Western Railway services between Bristol Temple Meads and London will be also affected.
Leeds in the North will receive a reduced bus service, including severely limited service on January 2.
London is also vulnerable to travel disruptions due to Tube network closures. Lines such as the Piccadilly and Jubilee lines, Metropolitan, and City lines are all affected.