According to retail experts Springboard, despite a footfall drop of 15% across all UK retail destinations last week versus the week before (the run-up to Christmas), things looked up for high streets on New Year’s Eve with a rise of 5.2% from the week before (Christmas Eve). This is a sharp contrast with New Year’s Eve 2019 when high street footfall declined by -9% from the week before.

Notably, in both years, New Year’s Eve footfall in Central London rose from the week before, but this year footfall in Central London rose by a staggering +54.8% compared with +22.7% on New Year’s Eve in 2019. This uplift wasn’t replicated in other city centres around the UK where footfall on New Year’s Eve was 0.8% lower than on Christmas Eve. Footfall also rose in historic town centres on New Year’s Eve (by 7.3%), and in Outer London (5%) but declined by 8.2% in market towns.

Over the seven days as a whole, versus the week before, all three destination types recorded double digit declines in activity with -11.8% in high streets, -17.5% in retail parks and -19.2% in shopping centres. However, the gap between last week and the week before narrowed from day to day as the week progressed; on Sunday (Boxing Day) footfall was 43% lower than the previous Sunday but by Friday (New Year’s Eve) this had narrowed to 6.4% from Friday in the previous week (Christmas Eve).

The final week of the year ended with footfall in UK retail destinations 24.5% below the 2019 level, but 78% higher than the level in 2020.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Despite the well documented cautiousness of shoppers in the run-up to and over Christmas this year, it appears that on New Year’s Eve there was a shift in behaviour with footfall in high streets increasing from the week before (Christmas Eve). Not only was this the only day last week when high street footfall was higher than the week before, but it was also in sharp contrast with New Year’s Eve 2019 when high street footfall was lower on New Year’s Eve than on Christmas Eve. The winners on New Year’s Eve were Central London and historic town centres where footfall rose significantly from the week before, while declining in smaller local high streets. “Overall, footfall last week, which began on Boxing Day and ended on New Year’s Day, was inevitably lower than in the preceding week which was the run-up to Christmas and ended on Christmas Day.’’

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