The UK retail sector experienced a notable decline in footfall during December 2023, as heavy rainfall influenced consumers to favour online shopping over visiting stores. 

According to data released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Sensormatic IQ, total retail footfall declined 5% over the five weeks to 30 December, compared to the previous month. 

Footfall in shopping centres was particularly badly affected, with a 7.4% decrease in shopper numbers, a significant downturn from the 2.2% fall recorded in November.  

High streets also saw fewer visitors, with a year-on-year (YoY) decrease of 4.2% in December, a more pronounced drop than the 1.7% fall observed in the previous month. 

In addition, retail parks did not escape the downward footfall trend, experiencing a 4.8% drop in footfall.  

The decline varied across the UK nations, with Scotland registering the smallest YoY decrease at 2.2%.  

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By GlobalData

Northern Ireland’s footfall decreased by 4.7%, while both England and Wales saw a more substantial drop of 5.8%. 

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson stated: “December’s heavy rain left many shoppers reluctant to brave the elements, [and] instead [they] opted to browse online before making final purchases, or to shop online altogether.  

“This led to a substantial decline in footfall levels compared to December 2022, when there was significant pent-up demand for in-store shopping post-Covid restrictions. Some cities, such as Edinburgh, bucked the trend, and saw footfall levels rise in December thanks to recent investment in new, exciting shopping destinations.” 

Dickinson has called on political parties for “a clear and cohesive plan for retail”. 

She added: “This plan must take account of the regulatory cost burden and broken business rates system which are limiting business investment and growth. Ways also need to be found to create thriving shopping destinations and drive customer footfall back up again in 2024.”