UK footfall is weak in chilly March as consumer caution kicks in


UK retail footfall last month was worse than it had been in February with MRI Springboard saying that “shoppers have started to rein in leisure-based trips, with the long-awaited impact of the cost-of-living crisis creating consumer cautiousness”.

March footfall dropped by 2.8% compared to February, the first time it had recorded a monthly drop since the survey began in 2009 — that is, apart from the extreme situations when lockdowns began in March 2020 and the ‘Beast from the East’ snow arrived during 2018.

Footfall was also down 0.6% compared to March 2022.

MRI Springboard also said that the gap between March 2019 — the year before the pandemic — and last month widened to minus 18.7%.

That 2.8% month-on-month fall also looks particularly bad when compared to an almost 10% rise between January and February this year.

The report added that “inflationary pressure and interest rates lead to consumer trips now being driven by essential shopping”. This was further demonstrated by it being the first month where footfall dropped by 1.4% across UK high streets at the weekend.

It’s particularly worrying for the fashion sector, given that the new spring collections had been dropping in-store during March. However, a crumb of comfort could be that cool weather suppressed interest in spring fashion, and that this interest might ignite now that a warmer April has arrived.

MRI Springboard is forecasting that Easter Weekend footfall will be 5.1% higher than in the week before. And footfall for Easter 2023 is expected to be 5.4% higher than Easter 2022.

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