Retail experts Springboard’s annual retail review for 2022 shows a slow but steady recovery for the UK’s retail landscape.
While footfall in 2022 remained 14.2 percent under 2019 levels, January 2023 has already shown some days to have reached the same trading peaks as during pre-pandemic times.
Springboard said the recovery in footfall in UK destinations over the whole of 2022 has to be split between the first four months of the year, when the country was in lockdown, and the subsequent period of re-opening, in order to paint an accurate picture.
The extent of the recovery in footfall over the 12 months from January to December 2022 was in line with Springboard’s forecast of a gap from the 2019 footfall level of between -10 percent and -15 percent. Over the year as a whole footfall across UK retail destinations was -14.2 percent below the 2019 level, with a steady improvement from -20.8 percent below 2019 in January 2022 to -10.9 percent in December 2022.
The increase in localism that emerged during Covid endured during 2022, particularly in respect of the difference in the extent of recovery in footfall in Central London vs Outer London, Springboard said. In Central London over the May to December period footfall was -17.8 percent below the 2019 level versus -9.1 percent in Outer London. The comparison of footfall recovery in market towns and city centres outside of the capital diminished during 2022 with large cities attracting back footfall. In 2021, footfall in market towns was -30.9 percent below the 2019 level versus -37.8 percent in city centres around the UK.
By 2022, however, the position had shifted, and footfall in market towns was -17.9 percent below 2019 versus -14.6 percent in city centres over the 12 months.
Whilst footfall in retail destinations strengthened over the 12 months in 2022, the importance of online spending diminished from a peak reached during the pandemic. During Lockdown 3 in February 2021 65 percent clothes and footwear spending was carried out online, which more than tripled from January 2020 when it accounted for 20.5 percent. Subsequent to the peak it has fallen away significantly, and in December 2022 24.9 percent of spending for clothes and footwear was carried out online.
The resilience of retail parks in retaining footfall has been a feature of the physical retail landscape since the start of Covid. Not only do most retail parks host a food store so shoppers keep returning to these destinations on a regular basis, but they are easy to reach by car which was key during the pandemic when travelling on public transport was a concern to shoppers, and now can be problematic during rail strikes.
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, comments: “The question on everyone’s lips now that we are firmly in the midst of the pandemic recovery period, is what are the trends that are going to be prevalent during 2023? Unbeknown was the cost of living crisis and resulting increase in inflation that would await consumers and impact on spending during the latter part of 2022, which will continue through to 2023. Inevitably, this will act as a constraint to the number of trips made to retail destinations as household budgets come under increasing strain.