Omicron ‘wipes out’ retail recovery as December footfall drops

quiet shopping centre at Christmas
BRC figures show total UK December footfall was 18.6% lower than the same month in 2019
// Retail recovery stalled during December following renewed Covid-19 restrictions
// BRC figures show total UK December footfall was 18.6% lower than the same month in 2019

Much of the progress which had been made in attracting shoppers back to stores during the latter half of 2021 was wiped out during December amid the surge in Omicron cases, BRC figures reveal.

With restrictions including the reintroduction of face coverings and renewed work-from-home guidance, consumers were staying at home and completing much of their Christmas shopping online.

As a result, the total UK December footfall was 18.6% lower than the same month in 2019 and well below the three-month average decline of 16.4%, according to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data.

Footfall on high streets was down 23.1% while retail parks saw a drop of 9.2% and shopping centre visits declined by 36.6%.


Read more: Weekend Tube strikes threaten recovery of London’s West End


For the whole of 2021, total UK footfall was 33.2% down on pre-pandemic levels.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “Much of the progress made over the last four months was wiped out in December as surging Omicron cases and new work-from-home advice deterred many from shopping in-store, particularly in towns and city centres.

“December footfall capped a challenging year for brick-and-mortar stores, which saw footfall down one-third on pre-pandemic levels, though this was a significant improvement on 2020.

“With Christmas out the way, time will tell if shoppers return to their local high streets to embrace January sales and the arrival of spring collections. Still, retailers may have to work twice as hard to tempt many consumers back into the cold this January.”

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