Shopper footfall plummets in November amid second English lockdown

Shopper numbers plummeted last month as England’s second national lockdown piled pressure on troubled high street retailers, according to new figures.

The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for November revealed that footfall across UK shopping destinations dived by 65.4% compared with the same month last year.

It said this was 31.9% lower than footfall in October after England entered a four-week lockdown period.

Stores in England were greeted with queues on Wednesday after they reopened ahead of the key Christmas trading period.

Coronavirus – Wed Dec 2, 2020
Coronavirus – Wed Dec 2, 2020

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Footfall plummeted once again as England underwent its second national lockdown in November.

“With the majority of stores closed, many missed out on the usual Black Friday boost to store visits as customers hunted for bargains online instead.

“Retail parks were hit less hard thanks to a higher proportion of supermarkets and other essential stores in those locations, slightly mitigating the overall drop in footfall.

“Now that all of retail is open again, customers can get out and do their Christmas shopping confident that stores are Covid-secure and retailers are doing everything to keep them safe.”

High streets were particularly badly affected by lockdown measures, reporting a 63.9% slump compared with November 2019.

Shopping centres were also hit hard, with the figures showing they saw a 61.8% year-on-year decline.

However, retail parks continued to perform more resiliently, with footfall down 26.8%.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at ShopperTrak, said: “Not even Black Friday could loosen the grim grip of lockdown, which wiped out footfall on the high street in November.

“Forced to close just at the time they needed to capitalise on Christmas trade, the real test now comes as those retailers can reopen.”

Elsewhere, new figures from accountancy firm BDO showed a rise in retail sales during November, despite lockdown measures.

BDO’s monthly high street sales tracker reported a 3.3% increase in sales amid heavy discounting for Black Friday.

Like-for-like lifestyle sales improved by 17.6% in November as people did their Christmas shopping early.

However, like-for-like fashion sales slid by 5.7%.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “Retailers will need to make the most of every opportunity as lockdown lifts and the Christmas trading season reaches its zenith in December.

“While November results were promising, the figures have been heavily impacted by widespread discounting and lockdown’s knock-on effect on in-store sales and strong online demand.

“As we head into 2021, more store closures are sadly imminent and brands that survive will be those that capitalise on digital channel investment and adapt their store portfolio quickly to changing consumer behaviour.

“The overall picture for the high street in 2020 looks bleak, but retailers have shown immense resilience, and some have even proven in the most turbulent times there are success stories to be found.”