Retail footfall holds up despite a turbulent year

Despite a challenging year of storms, rail strikes, rising interest rates and living costs, average retail footfall for 2023 was still ahead of 2022.

In its latest annual footfall review, MRI Software reported that average retail footfall in 2023 was 3.3% ahead of 2022, although still down 11.5% on 2019. This was an improvement, however, on 2022, when footfall ended 14.2% below 2019 levels.

MRI said that the true impact of the cost-of-living crisis rose to the surface in October when consumers were starting to feel the pinch and footfall dipped below 2022 levels to -1.3% across all retail destinations for the first time since April 2021.

Although skewed by other factors, MRI says the 2023 figures are significant as they cover the first full trading year free from any direct pandemic influences.

High-street footfall hit highs around the Easter break, when it rose by 17% and in October (half term), when it rose by 10.5%. Black Friday too brought a positive spike of 10%.

Analysed by the type of retail destination, MRI figures showed that high street footfall declined by an average of 2.7% year on year, while shopping centres did slightly better with a decline of 1%, with retail parts doing best of all, with footfall rising by 1.3%.

Compared with 2019, high street footfall declined by 13.8%, shopping centres by 15.6% and retail parks by just 2%.

Across the country, all regions saw footfall rises compared with 2022, with, Northern Ireland seeing the most significant footfall uplift at 5.5%. Scotland, London, Wales and the East also saw large gains.

MRI also analysed store sales by category of retailer from January to December 2023. Categories that saw an uplift were food (8.9%), entertainment and books, health and beauty (9.1%) and home DIY and garden stores. And although the average trend across all of retail was up by 1.6%, electricals saw a decline of around 10%.

Looking ahead for the rest of 2024, the report concluded: “Despite signs of improvement, the UK economy remains in a delicate position. While inflation has slowed, prices are still higher than consumers would prefer. This will continue to impact spending power, however should this remain stable we anticipate recovery as the year progresses with consumers gaining confidence in their financial situation and spending ability. International conflicts add another layer of complexity, likely to disrupt stock availability due to delays in products arriving from overseas.”

Home > News > Retail footfall holds up despite a turbulent year