March delivered a sharp shock to UK retail destinations with a decline in footfall from February, according to retail analyst, Springboard. This was the first month on month decline in footfall in March since MRI Springboard started publishing its data in January 2009, except for March in 2018 when the Beast from the East hit the UK and March 2020 when the UK went into Lockdown.
Good news came in April with Good Friday, as footfall across UK retail destinations was supported by strong consumer demand in the run up to and over Easter. With schools having broken up, footfall rose noticeably last week from the week before, with increases every day and particularly significant rises on Tuesday and Thursday. The two key trading days of Easter (Good Friday and Easter Saturday) were undoubtedly helped by the warm and sunny weather, whilst Good Friday exceeded all expectations.
Nevertheless, these overall results demonstrate that consumers are feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. Higher inflation and interest rates and the end of the monthly energy bill rebate, have resulted in a high degree of cautiousness being exhibited by consumers. For many consumers a period of austerity has started, with the driver of trips now being essential spending rather than experience as many consumers rein in leisure-based trips to destinations to reduce their spending. Indeed, the evidence of this is clear from an annual decline in footfall across UK high streets at the weekend.
At least some of the reduction of footfall in March is likely to have been a consequence of consumers deferring trips to the Easter weekend, during which MRI Springboard has forecast that footfall will be +5.1% higher than the same three trading days in the week before. Despite this, the dampening impact on trips and spending of the cost-of-living crisis means that footfall over Easter 2023 is still expected to be just +5.4% higher than over Easter 2022.
Winchester high street photographed by Chris Morgan.