Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales drive shoppers to malls as UK high street suffers

Before the pandemic, footfall in central London rose on Black Friday by 23.7%, compared to the previous week. This year it rose just 2.3%. Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty

The number of people shopping on UK high streets during the Black Friday weekend slumped this year, as more Brits opted for shopping centres and retail parks, new data has shown.

High street footfall fell on Black Friday for the first time since the event started in the UK, retail expert Springboard revealed.

It declined 0.5% from the week before while the number of people in shopping centres increased 17.9%, and 11.4% in retail parks.

In the eight previous years recorded by the company, high street footfall on Black Friday rose from the week before by an average of 17.3%, in 2019 it rose by 25%, and during lockdown last year it was still 11.7% higher on Black Friday.

“The impact of home working and the lack of tourism is clear,” Springboard said on Monday.

Before the pandemic, footfall in central London rose on Black Friday by 23.7%, compared to the previous week, and was up 29.6% in regional cities outside the capital, and 32.3% in historic towns. This year the rises were just 2.3%, 0.5% and 1.2% respectively, as Brits sought locations that are more accessible to reach by car thanks to the adverse weather.

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The latest research also showed that footfall across UK shopping destinations climbed 2% in the week leading up to Black Friday compared to the week before, driven by a 6.5% and 4.9% climb in shopping centres and retail parks, respectively.

Overall footfall in the UK retail sector is still 17% lower than its 2019 pre-pandemic level, Springboard said, widening the gap from the week prior when it stood at -12.4%.

However, it is more than double (102.1%) the level in 2020 when the country entered its second lockdown to prevent a further spread of COVID-19 before Christmas.

“Three factors sit behind this; firstly, the large proportion of office employees continuing to work from home meant that rather than visiting high street stores during the working day on Black Friday, for those shoppers who wanted to shop in store on Black Friday it was easier to head out to shopping centres and retail parks,” Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said.

Read more: UK consumer credit surges to £700m in October

“Secondly, a reduction in overseas tourists in the UK has resulted in far fewer leisure shoppers who on Black Friday would typically head to central London, large city centres around the UK and towns attractive to tourists such as historic and coastal towns.

“The third factor was the adverse weather on Saturday, which acted as a severe deterrent to shoppers in making trips to towns and cities.”

She added: “However, despite these challenges, the more substantial retail offer in larger towns and cities appealed to high street shoppers more than smaller towns.”

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