Regent Street, a major shopping street in the West End of London. Shutterstock.
The dramatic decline in people visiting stores reflects the devastating disruption caused by the pandemic over the last year.
In December alone, footfall in the UK fell by 46.1 percent compared to a year earlier, according to data from The British Retail Consortium and ShopperTrak. That still represents a 19.3 percentage point improvement from the month prior when England was placed under a second lockdown. In the run-up to Christmas, a critical period for retail dubbed the “golden quarter,” footfall nearly halved compared to last year and dropped more than 80 percent in the final week of December in hard-hit areas like London and the South East of England, where tougher restrictions were put in place to curb a new strain of the coronavirus.
The worst-hit shopping location for five consecutive months in 2020 was the British high street, where footfall was down 49.5 percent in December, while shopping centres saw a 47.3 percent decline.
With England now under a third national lockdown and non-essential businesses forced to close, many retailers face an uncertain future. “A third lockdown will be one too many for some businesses,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson in a statement calling on the UK Government to extend financial support such as relief of business rates (a form of tax on commercial property) established in April last year.