Posted: Tue 12th Oct 2021
Footfall in UK retail destinations is predicted to be down during the crucial six-week Christmas trading period but up during Black Friday promotions as consumers start their festive purchasing early due to continuing supply chain issues.
Retail analysts Springboard said shoppers venturing out to physical retail are likely to bring their search for gifts forward to November in order to guarantee what they want to buy for their friends and loved ones.
The COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of HGV drivers are causing problems across many supply chains and leading to a shortage of goods.
Springboard said the week of Black Friday, beginning on 21 November, will see a boost in footfall of +7.9% as consumers take advantage of discounting. This compares to an average Black Friday footfall uplift +5.1% between 2014 and 2019 and +1.7% in both 2018 and 2019.
In contrast, footfall across all UK retail destinations will average -17% lower than 2019 from Sunday 21 November to Saturday 4 January, the key festive shopping period.
The drop is expected to be driven by high streets and shopping centres, whereas in retail parks, which have been far more resilient during the pandemic, footfall will average +5.5% higher than in 2019.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: "This year, the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the supply issue associated with the shortage of HGV drivers, which has already affected stock in food stores and led to the recent fuel crisis, will, unfortunately, cause further issues for bricks and mortar retailers over the Christmas trading period.
"In addition, the end of the furlough scheme, coinciding with recent increases in energy prices are likely to further dampen footfall as household spend on Christmas gifts is constrained and family experiences are favoured.
"Although footfall will be +80.9% stronger in comparison to 2020, this result is distorted as last year retailers were forced to close their doors for four weeks from the beginning of November, which overlapped, with two of the six week Christmas trading period.
"Whilst footfall will rise over the Christmas trading period, it will remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, part of which is the long term shift of some spend online which has impacted footfall by around -1.5% per annum for the past decade.”
Footfall in large city centres will strengthen over the six week Christmas period, overtaking smaller high streets as consumers look to seek out the Christmas shopping experience they missed last year.
UK footfall is likely to continue to rise into the week of Christmas, with an increase of +6.5% from the week before. Springboard said: "With Christmas Day falling on a weekend this year, this provides a longer final trading week offering consumers an opportunity to shop in store in the immediate day leading up to Christmas when it cannot always be guaranteed that online purchases will be delivered in time."
Last week, the government announced it has appointed Sir Dave Lewis, former CEO of Tesco, as its new supply chain adviser.
In a press statement, 10 Downing Street said he will identify "the causes of current blockages and pre-empting potential future ones" as well as "advising on resolutions either through direct government action or through industry with government support.
Lewis will also co-chair the new Supply Chain Advisory Group, consisting of external experts and the new industry taskforce.