Little Christmas cheer for UK retailers as footfall and sales hit by tougher COVID rules

·2-min read

Retailers hoping for a recovery over Christmas have been left disappointed, according to figures on sales and footfall.

Both categories saw a brief boost at the beginning of December, following the end of November's restrictions, but this quickly fell away under the force of tougher COVID tier rules.

The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor showed a 46.1% slump in footfall across UK shopping destinations during December, compared with the same month in 2019.

High street stores saw a 49.5% drop, shopping centres were down 47.3% and retail parks fell by 17.3%.

Coronavirus restrictions have kept non-essential retail closed for a large portion of the last year in an effort to limit the spread of the disease.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: "After an encouraging start to the month, Christmas shopper numbers dwindled as December progressed, due in large part to the creation of Tier 4 in England and increased restrictions elsewhere in the UK.

"London, the South East and Wales were hardest hit, with footfall dropping by over four-fifths in the final week.

"However, it has been a hard year for the entire country, with footfall down by 43% in 2020 compared to the previous year."

Meanwhile, BDO's high street sales tracker showed like-for-like sales were down 1.6% in December, despite an initial boost at the beginning of the month following the end of England's second national lockdown.

Fashion sales were down 6.2%, lifestyle sales fell 5.4%, but homeware sales reported 29.3% like-for-like growth.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: "Shoppers were ready to spend at the start of December, providing retailers with some much-needed Christmas cash.

"This optimism was scuppered, however, as lockdowns returned across the country, dampening consumer sentiment, with discretionary spend following close behind."