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London’s Oxford Street sees strong December footfall, but rest of UK struggles

By Huw Hughes


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Image: Oxford Circus | Credit: New West End Company

London’s Oxford Street saw a 20 percent month-on-month increase in footfall in December, according to a new report which painted a bleaker picture for the rest of the UK.

Oxford Street was the only major high street in the UK to experience an increase in footfall in December, according to accountancy firm RSM, which analysed data from data firm Datscha.

It’s good news for the iconic shopping street and wider London retail scene which have been working hard to tempt shoppers from online channels back to physical stores following the end of lockdown restrictions last year.

However, footfall across all “key high streets” in the UK was down 30 percent in December compared to the month before.

The most significant drops were recorded in Leeds, where footfall was down 55 percent, followed by Nottingham (49 percent), and Glasgow (48 percent).

Overall UK high street footfall was down 25 percent compared to a year earlier, but down 48 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels from 2019.

Post-pandemic recovery

Jacqui Baker, partner and head of retail at RSM UK and chair of ICAEW’s Retail Advisory Group, said: “London might have been slower in getting back up on its feet than other cities post-lockdown, but it came back with a vengeance in December, with a positive uptick in footfall whilst all other major UK cities saw a decrease.

“The combination of more workers returning to the office, shopping in preparation for the party season and socialising gave footfall on the capital’s high street a welcome boost.”

But she said that retailers were hit by industrial strikes throughout the month, while retail hours were squeezed due to the Christmas holidays, and consumers focused on social events rather than shopping.

Baker continued: “Apart from in London, December’s footfall figures are unlikely to have filled retailers with confidence, as they look ahead to a nail biting first quarter in 2023.

“There have been some winners on the high street in the festive period and the hope is the recent drops in energy prices continue, easing the cost-of-living crisis later on in the year and in turn, boosting consumer confidence, meaning there’s still everything to play for in the sector.”

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