UK retail sector sees sluggish start to 2022

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The UK retail sector got off to a sluggish start in 2022, industry data showed on Friday, despite a fall in Covid cases and the easing of restrictions.
According to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor, total UK footfall was down 17.1% on January 2020, and up just 1.5 percentage points on December 2021.

Footfall on high streets was down 24.2%, off 13.0% in retail parks and down 37.5% at shopping centres, all on a year-on-two year basis. In January 2021, the UK was in lockdown with non-essential retail closed.

All three sub-sectors were also down month-on-month, with retail parks recording the steepest decline of 3.8 percentage points. High street footfall was down 1.1 percentage points and shopping centres was off 0.9 percentage points.

Across the UK, England saw the biggest fall, down 19.8%, followed by Wales at 16.9%, Scotland at 16.2% and Northern Ireland with a 9.5% decline.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “It was a slow start to 2022, with only minor improvements to UK footfall, despite a significant decline in Covid cases. Less people visited retail parks and shopping centres, but those who did went to more stores at each location. It is likely the January sales influenced this, encouraging consumers to shop around in their quest to find the best deals.

“As we emerge of the Omicron wave and the return to the office gains momentum, we are hopeful footfall will continue to improve.”

Andy Sumpter, EMEA retail consultant for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “While total retail shopper traffic improved marginally on December’s figures, footfall’s recovery remains plateaued. January became the fourth successive month in which shopper counts struggled to reach the highest recovery levels seen in October.

“Retailers will be hoping consumer confidence will return along with commuter trade to boost footfall and put a spring back into the step of the recovery.”

The government scrapped the guidance to work from home on 20 January, with the remaining Plan B rules, such as mandatory mask wearing, finishing on 27 January.

The latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor covers the period from 2 to 29 January 2022.

The monitor calculates total UK footfall using precise shopper numbers entering stores, rather than an average of the three sub-sectors. As retail parks and shopping centres are destinations in themselves, their totals are calculated using numbers entering premises rather than individual stores, which means location footfall can fall while total UK footfall rises.

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