Footfall in UK retail destinations weakened in January, reaching a gap of -20.8% from the 2019 level versus -18.6% in December, according to Springboard.
It said that the drop in levels was driven by a “poorer relative performance in high streets and shopping centres”.
However, it said it was “a month of two halves”, with footfall strengthening noticeably in the second half of the month to -19.2% below 2019 from -21.5% below 2019 in the first two weeks.
However, the gain in the second half of the month was not an even one across all of the three destination types, with the start of the great return of shoppers occurring only in high streets where footfall strengthened (from -28.9% below 2019 in the first two weeks to -22.4% in the second two weeks) whilst in shopping centres and retail parks the gap from 2019
widened (from -24.9% to -25.4% in shopping centres and from -2.2% to -5.8% in retail parks).
For high streets, Springboard said the results in January are positive on two fronts; firstly, activity started to increase in overall terms as employees returned to their offices for at least part of the week, and customers began to return to physical stores during the day and to dine out again in the evening.
Similarly, a positive aspect for high streets is that the start of the recovery in footfall to the high street took place in both smaller high streets and in larger city centres as a result of hybrid home/office working, and the growth of coworking spaces that are starting to emerge in smaller high streets, particularly in Outer London.
Footfall in Central London, regional cities and market towns around the UK all strengthened by around a quarter between the second and the fourth week of the month, and in Outer London it strengthened by nearly a third.
Daine Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Whilst shopping centres and retail parks did not see a noticeable uplift in footfall in January, the impetus created by the start of the great return to the high street will inevitably generate a ripple effect across all physical destinations in the forthcoming weeks, which even at this early stage offers a reason for optimism amongst retailers and retail destinations.”