Coronavirus: Tiered restrictions in the UK leave retail footfall down 40%

Kumutha Ramanathan
·2 min read
Pedestrians walk past closed shops on Oxford Street as tier 4 coronavirus restrictions are in place to limit the spread of the new strain of coronavirus as the infections continue to rise, on 22 December, 2020 in London, England. London, the south-east and the east of England entered tier 4 restrictions on Sunday, similar to the last national lockdown, with an order to stay-at-home, ban on household mixing, closing of all non-essential retail and businesses and cancellation of the planned relaxing of rules over five days around Christmas. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Pedestrians walk past closed shops on Oxford Street as Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions are put in place. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/Getty

Footfall in UK retail destinations was down 40% on Christmas Eve this year compared to 2019 due to tiered COVID-19 restrictions, according to research gathered by data provider Springboard.

Central London was among the most severely impacted with footfall 78.8% lower than last year — a drop of 54.7% from just a week ago — prior to the more stringent Tier 4 restrictions that have been put in place since a new strain of COVID-19 was discovered in the UK.

Those who did venture out chose to stay local as footfall in market towns across the UK rose by 11.2% from last week, and footfall rose by 24.9% in the smallest shopping centres (less than 100,000 square feet).

“Since the start of the pandemic, the retail industry has been heavily impacted and retailers have had to adapt more than ever before,” said Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard.

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“Regional cities are typically the busiest trading locations on Boxing Day as shoppers clamour for bargains, however, by then five of the 12 regional cities — which account for 45% of footfall across all regional cities — will either be in Tier 4 or full lockdown. Therefore the in store experience of Christmas sales will not be possible for many as we near the end of 2020.”

The value of online retail sales in the UK from 2012 to 2020. Chart: Statista
The value of online retail sales in the UK from 2012 to 2020. Chart: Statista

Retailers relying on physical retail stores to sell products have faced a major drop in sales since the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year. Nearly 125,000 retail jobs have already been lost in the UK in the first eight months of 2020, according to research conducted by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

Several major chains, including Debenhams, Monsoon, Oasis, Cath Kidston, were forced into administration.

As many as 13,867 shops have closed permanently, including thousands of small stores employing 32,598 people, said CRR.

With restrictions looming, customers have increasingly headed online. With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the value of online retail sales in the UK is estimated to reach just below £100bn ($137.65bn) in 2020, according to Statista, up from £76.04bn in 2019.

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