Footfall across greater London declined by -8.3 per cent on Tuesday as rail strikes led shoppers to steer clear of the high street, spelling more misery for the capital’s retailers amid the vital Christmas period.
According to the latest reading from MRI Software, Tuesday was the most impacted day so far, with footfall in central London down by -1.5 per cent.
Jenni Matthews, marketing and insights director at MRI Software, told City A.M. that since rail strike action commenced on 1st of December, footfall in central London fell on the 1st and 2nd of December; declining from the week before by -6.2 per cent and -3.5 per cent respectively.
“Much of this will be in response to a natural decline. It was Black Friday in the week before and footfall rose by an average of 5.8 per cent for the same time period,” she said.
Members of ASLEF, the train drivers’ trade union, are staging walkouts all week as they continue strike action in their ongoing national dispute over pay.
But heads representing the UK’s retail and hospitality sector have said that they are fearful the disruption could hinder trade in the run up to Christmas.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “We have seen a significant drop in footfall across major cities like London as a result of this week’s strikes and we expect that to continue throughout the strike period, in addition to the strikes damaging consumer confidence in the railway.
“Hospitality businesses rely on revenue made during the busy festive period to see them through the fallow months of January to March, so it’s essential that any more strikes during December are avoided.”
She added: “The cumulative financial impact of this ongoing rail dispute has already cost the sector £4bn over the past year and a half and continues to disrupt businesses, prevent staff from working and prevent family and friends getting together over the Christmas season.”
It comes as both industries have suffered this year as high inflation and unseasonable weather led to a slow down in trade.
Kris Hamer, director of insight at the British Retail Consortium, explained: “Rail strikes are disruptive for retail as they limit commuter, leisure and tourist traffic.
“To avoid disruption, many people will have opted to work from home, impacting already-vulnerable city centre businesses reliant on their custom. London’s footfall remains down on pre-pandemic levels, and strikes will only slow the progress retailers have made to bring people back to stores.”
Sarah Willingham, chief executive of Nightcap PLC, which manages 46 bars across the country described the situation as “disappointing”.
She said: “The rail strikes are having such a huge impact on the hospitality sector and the deliberate targeting of the really critical trading month of December is disappointing.”
“However, hospitality continues to pivot its business model, put events on other days to compensate because at the end of the day people still want to go out, there is a big demand there, but we just need to be allowed to trade.”
City A.M has contacted ASLEF for a comment.