High Street Footfall Hits Highest Level Since Pre-Lockdown February » Ipsos » Market leader in people counting, management and behaviour insights


  • UK footfall levels over w/c 13 December up +2.7% on the previous week, but down -42.4% year-on-year.
  • Shopper numbers reached their highest levels in 2020 since February.
  • The year-on-year deficit was greatest in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where footfall was exactly half of what it was one year ago.
  • Tier 4 restrictions in London and the South East mean nearly a third of UK households will not be able to shop in non-essential stores in the final five days before Christmas.

Footfall in non-food stores across the UK in the final full week of trading before Christmas fell well short of the usual last-minute rush, despite shopper numbers reaching their highest levels since w/c 16 February, according to Ipsos Retail Performance’s latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) tracking data .

UK footfall over the week commencing 13 December was up +2.7% on the previous week, but down by-42.4% on 2019 as the rise in cases of COVID-19 and new Tier 4 restrictions across London and the South East limited shopper numbers.

By comparison, in 2019, the final full week of trading saw footfall increase sharply by +15.3% on the previous week. The year-on-year deficit was greatest in Scotland and Northern Ireland where footfall was half of the levels seen one year ago.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance and co-founder of the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank, explained:

“On one hand we had hoped to see more people out shopping last week than proved to be the case, on the other hand, the numbers were the highest recorded since the week commencing February 16th, just before the pandemic struck the UK. So we should at least acknowledge that the final full week before Christmas drew shoppers back into the high street.

“The footfall numbers may have been muted compared to every other year on record, but there are good reasons for that, of course. Many consumers will have acted on the advice of the British Retail Consortium and the likes of ourselves to shop early, to avoid disappointment and take the stress out of finding last minute gifts.

“Others will have favoured buying more presents online this year, perhaps having got into the habit of the lockdown months or just to avoid any risk of in-store crowd contact. Retailers too will have taken all necessary steps to safeguard the wellbeing of their customers and staff by limiting the number of people able to shop in their stores at any one time.”

Overall footfall fell -12.3% short of Ipsos Retail Performance’s updated pre-Christmas forecast, reflecting the muted activity of shoppers in the run-up to Christmas, as well as the impact of new COVID-19 restrictions.

Dr Denison added:

“The unwelcome, rapid advance of the new variant of Coronavirus forcing the Government to toughen its rules and introduce a Tier 4 rated areas in England could not have come at a worse time for retailers. We estimate that 30% of households will not be able to shop in non-essential stores in the final five days before Christmas Day.

“Retailers and their logistics partners will be doing everything in their power to accommodate any subsequent last-minute surge in online orders, in Tier 4 areas in particular. Elsewhere we expect footfall to have reached its peak, but the situation may well prove very different across different parts of the country according to the local restrictions in place. For many, enjoying the Christmas spirit of shopping in the high street is a cherished part of the festivities, and where shoppers can get out safely and savour the occasion, I am sure they will do so.”

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