Total year-on-year footfall for 2020 fell by 43.4%, according to BRC-ShopperTrak data.
Year-on-year UK footfall decreased by 46.1% in December, a 19.3 percentage point improvement from November when England was under lockdown. Footfall on high streets declined by 49.5% year on year. This was the worst-performing location type for the fifth consecutive month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.
Northern Ireland saw the shallowest footfall decline of all regions at -47.2%, followed by Scotland at -50.2%. Wales saw a decline of -52.3%.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “After an encouraging start to the month, Christmas shopper numbers dwindled as December progressed, due in large part to the creation of Tier 4 in England and increased restrictions elsewhere in the UK.
“High streets and shopping centres continued to see the most substantial decline in shoppers, as their ‘non-essential’ tenants were forced to close their doors during the weeks leading up to and following Christmas. London, the South East and Wales were hardest hit, with footfall dropping by over four-fifths in the final week. However, it has been a hard year for the entire country, with footfall down by 43% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
“Now that all parts of the UK are effectively in lockdown and with social distancing measures expected to continue well into the new year, ‘non-essential’ stores will be unable to trade their way back to recovery. A third lockdown will be one too many for some businesses. Rent bills continue to weigh heavily and the threat of a return to full business rates liability in April still looms. The Government must urgently reassure those businesses hardest hit by the pandemic that they will receive vital financial support in the form of an extension to the coronavirus business rates relief.”
Bike shops are among businesses which can remain open during England’s national lockdown, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed people to stay at home to ‘control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives’.
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant – EMEA of ShopperTrak, added: “Not even the advent of festive season could turn around the fortunes of the High Street in December. As infection rates soared, fears of a mutated virus spread and Christmas gatherings were called into question or cancelled, it was really was a case of ‘the strain that stole Christmas’ for retailers, as footfall plummeted to nearly -50% year-on-year.
“December was a month of two halves, however – before footfall fell away as UK consumers faced the prospect of tougher restrictions, there was an initial recovery in retail footfall in the first two weeks of December, with shopper counts boosted by pent-up demand from November’s lockdown and shoppers’ get-ahead gift buying. While this soon plummeted in the second half of the month, it at least served to save some valuable Christmas trade.”
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