UK Retail Footfall Tumbled 43% in 2020

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Regent Street, a major shopping street in the West End of London. Shutterstock.

The dramatic decline in people visiting stores reflects the devastating disruption caused by the pandemic over the last year.

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In December alone, footfall in the UK fell by 46.1 percent compared to a year earlier, according to data from The British Retail Consortium and ShopperTrak. That still represents a 19.3 percentage point improvement from the month prior when England was placed under a second lockdown. In the run-up to Christmas, a critical period for retail dubbed the “golden quarter,” footfall nearly halved compared to last year and dropped more than 80 percent in the final week of December in hard-hit areas like London and the South East of England, where tougher restrictions were put in place to curb a new strain of the coronavirus.

The worst-hit shopping location for five consecutive months in 2020 was the British high street, where footfall was down 49.5 percent in December, while shopping centres saw a 47.3 percent decline.

With England now under a third national lockdown and non-essential businesses forced to close, many retailers face an uncertain future. “A third lockdown will be one too many for some businesses,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson in a statement calling on the UK Government to extend financial support such as relief of business rates (a form of tax on commercial property) established in April last year.

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