UK retailers hit by footfall decline amid cost of living squeeze

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Footfall at retail outlets in the UK fell by 2.3% last week as economic turmoil continues to squeeze household budgets, figures show.

Research by the retail analysts Springboard found high streets, retail parks, and shopping centres had fewer visits than in the week before.

High streets were worst hit, with a 3.3% decline, while retail parks and shopping centres fell by 1.5% and 0.7% respectively. Overall, footfall was up 5.9% compared with the same time in 2021, when the country was emerging from the Covid pandemic, but down 11.1% on 2019 levels.

The data comes amid steep jumps in mortgages and other costs after the mini-budget in September, with inflation at a 30-year high and increasing concern about the economic outlook.

The biggest decline was in the West Midlands, with overall footfall down 3.7% compared with the week before, while the east Midlands fell by 3.2%.

In central London, footfall declined by 3.3%; in northern England and Yorkshire by 2.5%. The only area to record an increase was Scotland, up by 1.1%.

Diane Wehrle, an insights director at Springboard, said: “There are several factors … driving consumer activity. However, the most evident is the squeeze on household incomes as a consequence of inflation and increased mortgage rates.

“This, mixed with the current political uncertainty, inevitably makes consumers cautious and then rein back on shopping trips.”

She added that while footfall remained higher than in the same week in 2021, the size of that increase had fallen in recent months.

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The research adds to a range of data showing the impact of the rising cost of living on households in the UK.

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In the second quarter of this year, more than 2.3 million households were in arrears on their electricity bills, while more than 1.8 million were behind on gas. Both totals were up by almost two-thirds since the end of 2020.

The UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, has said it expects to distribute 1.3m emergency food parcels over the next six months.

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