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Christmas shopping slow as customers put off by strikes and cost of living

UK footfall: Shoppers make their way as Christmas lights illuminate Regent Street
UK footfall: November also brought a slew of disruption to shopping habits, with train and Royal Mail strikes, as well as the distraction of the World Cup. Photo: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

UK footfall decreased by 13.3% in November, down 1.5 percentage points compared to October, as consumers rein in their spending thanks to a sharp cost of living crisis.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), this is worse than the three-month average decline of 11.5%.

The data, which covered the four weeks between 30 October and 26 November, revealed that footfall on British high streets fell 13.6% during the month when compared to before the pandemic in 2019.

This was 2 percentage points worse than last month's rate, and worse than the three-month average decline of 12.3% thanks to soaring inflation, and higher energy and food costs.

Read more: Will Santa gift investors with a stock market rally?

Retail parks suffered a 4.2% decrease over the period, while shopping centre footfall was down by 23.2%.

On a yearly basis, total footfall increased by 3.7%, high streets by 8%, shopping centres by 7%, and retail parks decreased by 4%.

Northern Ireland saw the shallowest footfall decline of all the British regions at -7.0%, followed by Scotland at -15.0% and England at -15.4%. Wales saw the steepest decline at -16.2%.

Birmingham footfall fell by as much as 19.4% over the four weeks, while Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, and Cardiff followed close behind. Belfast managed to eke out a 5.7% growth.

November also brought a slew of disruption to shopping habits, with train and Royal Mail strikes, as well as the distraction of the World Cup.

However, footfall on Black Friday did manage to surpass 2021 levels.

Read more: House prices fall at fastest rate in two years

“Footfall took another stumble as the cost of living crisis put off some consumers from visiting the shops in November. Others opted to stay home due to the scattering of rail strikes, or chose the World Cup over shopping visits. Many big cities were particularly hard hit, with Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester all seeing the biggest drops in footfall since January,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said.

“Rising inflation and low consumer confidence continue to dampen spending expectations in the run up to Christmas. Despite retailers doing their best to keep prices as low as possible for their customers, financial concerns are trumping spending for many households.

“But, with three more weeks to Christmas, retailers hope that the festive spirit may still give a welcome boost to both footfall and retail sales.”

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