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Retail footfall continue to recover towards pre-pandemic levels in January as the return of office workers and international tourists boosted high street numbers.

According to the BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor for January, total UK footfall increased by 12.5% year on year, partly due to the presence of some Covid restrictions in January 2022.

This was a 2.6 percentage point drop from footfall growth in December, but better than the overall three-month average increase of 10.3% as the trend continues towards a recovery in shopper numbers.

High street footfall increased by 20.2% in January, better than the three-month average increase of 15.2%.

Shopping centre footfall increased by 12.4% in January, against a three-month average increase of 10.2%.

However, retail parks saw footfall decrease by 3.5% in January, which was 1.9 percentage points worse than last month’s rate and worse than the three-month average decline of 2.9%.

Compared with pre-pandemic levels of four years ago, total footfall decreased by 6.5%, with high streets down by 8.5%, retail parks by 7.7%, and shopping centres by 25.2%.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson commented: “Footfall saw strong growth this month as employees made more trips into the office and international tourism improved, compared with last year when some Covid restrictions were in place.

“Growth was most pronounced in high streets and shopping centres as many shoppers sought out a bargain in the January sales. Meanwhile, retail parks faltered as the cost of living crisis put many shoppers off buying big-ticket home products often located there.

“Retailers will welcome this recovery, and despite the cost of living squeeze, footfall has continued towards its pre-pandemic levels. The challenge for retailers will be to convert this extra footfall into sales, at a time when many consumers are reining in their discretionary spending. Government could capitalise on the growth in tourism by reintroducing VAT-free shopping to help entice even more international shoppers to the UK.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, added: “High street performance started off the year on a positive footing, with total UK footfall seeing a robust rise on 2021 levels. Shopper counts rallied despite the threat of disruption from ongoing rail strikes, cold snaps and shaky consumer confidence.

“While retailers will take heart from the demand signals that bricks-and-mortar remains shoppers’ channel of choice, footfall levels hover stubbornly just below pre-pandemic levels, even though January saw the highest recovery point in the past year.

“With the economic outlook continuing to put inflationary pressures on consumers’ discretionary spend and, facing inflationary pressures of their own across their manufacturing, supply chain and labour costs, retailers will once again have to run even faster to stand still. This will put the emphasis squarely on doubling down on operational efficiencies, as well as focusing on core ranging that delivers value to price-sensitive shoppers.”

Morning update

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has opened up fractionally at 7,827pts.

Risers include Nichols, up 5.9% to 1,045p, McBride, up 2.2% to 23p and B&M European Value Retail, up 2.1% to 486.9p.

Fallers include THG, down 4.3% to 59.3p, Fever-Tree, down 2.1% to 1,128.3p and Deliveroo, down 1.8% to 94p. 

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 closed yesterday up 0.8% at 7,820.2pts after the Bank of England raised interest rates and suggested a 2023 recession would be shallower than first forecast.

Risers include Ocado, which jumped 11.3% to 734.8p, and Ocado’s retail partner Marks & Spencer, which was up 7.3% to 161.1p.

Other risers included THG, up 6.7% to 62p, Greencore, up 6.5% to 86.5p, Just Eat, up 6.4% to 2,166p, Fever-Tree, up 5.8% to 1,152p and B&M European Value Retail, up 5.4% to 477.1p.

The day’s fallers included Nichols, down 4.7% to 986.5p, Hotel Chocolat, down 1.3% to 224p, Reckitt Benckiser, down 1.2% to 5,626p and Imperial Brands, down 0.8% to 2,034p.