Boxing Day footfall bounce for retail as West End chief calls for recovery help
Retail destinations across the country reaped the rewards of a Christmas without Covid restrictions as Boxing Day sales enticed shoppers out of their houses.
However, business leaders noted footfall was still below 2019 levels and called on the government to help accelerate retail’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic as it grapples with an economic downturn.
Footfall across high streets, retail parks and shopping malls was 38.8 per cent higher overall than in 2021, according to forecasters at Springboard.
Crowds of shoppers were up 44.1 per cent in high streets while shopping centres saw a 25.9 per cent boost. Retail parks saw footfall increase by 25.9 per cent.
Despite a slew of national rail strikes across the Christmas period, footfall in central London was up by 139.2 per cent up to midday.
Footfall across the capital’s shopping heartlands was up 66 per cent higher overall for Boxing Day compared to 2021.
While retail destinations have still experienced difficulties in returning to pre-pandemic levels of footfall, overall football was 18.2 per cent lower this year than in 2019.
Footfall in central London was just 7.8 per cent lower this year compared to 2019, according to Springboard’s data.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said the statistics were “far from doom and gloom” for the high street, as retailers brace for a tumultuous year against the backdrop of a cost of living crunch.
“These positive results come in line with the first Christmas post-pandemic without any formal social restrictions and in spite of the cost of living crisis and the rail strikes, which inevitably affect retailers negatively,” Wehrle said.
What’s more, footfall across the West End district was elevated 65 per cent versus 2021, according to business group the New West End Company.
The organisation’s own figures placed footfall levels at 16 per cent lower than 2019 levels, while Boxing Day marked a seven per cent increase week-on-week across the shopping destination.
Shoppers making a return to the Boxing Day sales was “positive news for the high street,” Dee Corsi, chief executive of New West End Company said.
“However, visitor numbers remain 16 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels – we must give retailers and leisure occupiers the best possible chance to seize upon improved conditions and grow in 2023,” Corsi added.
The business group boss called for rail firms and union bosses to hash out an agreement to end the strikes, as well as the government to examine measures such as lifting Sunday trading restrictions in areas like the West End.
Only through such actions “can our high street businesses truly prosper as we head into the new year,” Corsi said.
The Westfield shopping malls in White City and Stratford saw 11m people visit stores over the Christmas period, on par with 2019 levels.
“Almost 2.2m visited in the last week alone, with Boxing Day attracting over 300,000 shoppers through the doors,” Scott Parsons, chief operating officer UK of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said.