Figures show that footfall to shopping sites across the UK on Boxing Day has fallen to nearly half the levels seen before the pandemic.
Malls, usually filled with Boxing Day bargain hunters, saw footfall declines of nearly 50% compared to the same day in 2019, while high-street and retail parks saw footfalls of 38% and 40%.
The overall drop across all shopping sites was 41%, and appears to be the result of people changing their behavior amid concern about the Omicron variant and Sunday’s trading.
Diane Wehrle, director of insights at industry analyst Springboard, which compiles the numbers, said: “One of the main reasons for the significantly lower footfall compared to 2019 will be due to ongoing consumer concern about the rate of COVID-19.
« Plus, Sunday generally has the lowest turnout of any day of the week, so a comparison with 2019 when Boxing Day falls on a Thursday will always mean that turnout will be lower than it was two years ago. »
The impact of the coronavirus restrictions is also likely to explain the differences seen across the UK.
Shoppers are down more than 61% in Northern Ireland, 51% in Wales and 48% in Scotland. Both have imposed stricter restrictions in recent days compared to England, where turnout is down by only 40%.
Although some retail chains did not open all stores on Boxing Day, such as Next, the numbers were at least higher than last year, when the country was under tighter restrictions.
It is also believed that some people have shifted their spending online. Four out of 10 respondents to a survey conducted by Barclaycard They said they would buy online instead in an effort to avoid queues and crowds during the sales period.
This means that it is unclear what the overall effect of people’s reluctance to shop in person will mean for the retail sector.
British Retail Consortium spokesman Tom Holder said: « The spread of Omicron across the UK has led to an increase in the share of online spending as many consumers avoid town and city centres.
« While spending on travel and hospitality may be below pre-pandemic levels, retailers are waiting to see if this leads to increased spending on retail goods, particularly food and household items. »
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