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UK retail footfall down one-third on pre-pandemic level

By Jenni Reid

09:44, 7 January 2022

Shoppers in the Royal Arcade in Norwich, England
High street footfall was down 23.1% on its pre-pandemic level in December – Photo: TMO Travel/Alamy Stock Photo

The number of shoppers on UK high streets climbed last year but remained well below pre-pandemic levels, figures published today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show. 

Retail footfall was up 19.3% year-on-year, but down 33.2% on 2019. The biggest drop by city was seen in London, where footfall was down 26.7% compared its pre-crisis level, followed by Nottingham (​​-23.8%), Glasgow (-21.8%) and Birmingham (-19.7%). 

At the other end of the scale, Belfast was down just 0.6%, with softer falls also seen in Liverpool (-11.2%) and Manchester (-12.9%).

Gloomy Christmas 

The BRC found that UK footfall in December, usually the busiest month for retailers, was down 18.6% on 2019. 

The impact was seen most in shopping centres, which saw 36.6% lower footfall than before the pandemic, followed by high streets, down 23.1%. Retail parks saw a more modest two-year decline of 9.2%. 

“Much of the progress made over the last four months was wiped out in December as surging Omicron cases and new work-from-home advice deterred many from shopping in-store, particularly in towns and city centres,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson. 


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However, with the UK introducing fewer new Covid restrictions than some of its European neighbours, the December drop was less severe than in Germany (down 51.5% on 2019), Italy (-37%), Spain (-25.2%) and France (-23.5%).

Uncertainty ahead

England has stuck to its ‘Plan B’ Covid measures, including advice to work from home where possible and mask mandates for most public spaces, excluding hospitality venues.

The country looks unlikely to bring in further restrictions following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on 4 January, though retail bosses have previously warned that even the current restrictions impact trade. 

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced tougher measures, including the closure of nightclubs and limits on six people meeting in pubs, restaurants and bars. 

“With Christmas out the way, time will tell if shoppers return to their local high streets to embrace January sales and the arrival of spring collections. Still, retailers may have to work twice as hard to tempt many consumers back into the cold this January,” Dickinson said.  

Read more: German retail sales fall as higher prices weigh

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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