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Britain’s High Streets See Black Friday Footfall Fade

Britain’s high streets didn’t see any of the Black Friday footfall gains that drove increases in the U.K.’s other commerce hubs, new data shows.

What’s more, foot traffic on high streets dropped from their prior-week levels for Black Friday, while overall visits came in below 2019 levels, according to Springboard.

“There were some strong gains in footfall in U.K. retail destinations last week—the week of Black Friday—however, all of the uplift came from shopping centres and retail parks,” said Diane Wehrle, insights director at British foot traffic data firm. “The overall results for the week leading up to and including Black Friday weekend was dampened by a far weaker footfall performance in high streets than anticipated, and a drop in high street footfall on Black Friday itself for the first time in history.”

Amazon first introduced the concept of Black Friday to the U.K. in 2010 by promoting a curation of discounted items for one day.

According to Springboard’s data, footfall increased significantly on Black Friday from the week before by 17.9 percent in shopping centers and by 11.4 percent in retail parks. In contrast, foot traffic in high streets on Black Friday declined from the week before by 0.5 percent. In the eight previous years tracked by Springboard, high street foot traffic on Black Friday rose from the week before by an average of 17.3 percent. In 2019, footfall rose by 25 percent, and was up 11.7 percent from the week before even during 2020’s lockdown.

Springboard said that overall footfall is now down 17 percent below 2019’s level, indicating a widening gap from the week before when it stood at down 12.4 percent from 2019.

Wehrle said that one factor for the high street decline could be the number of people who still work from home, noting that instead of visiting high street stores on Black Friday, it was easier for them to head out to a shopping center or retail park. Compounding the problem was the lack of tourists, who tend to visit London and other large city centers around the U.K., she added.

Traffic is suffering in both the U.K. and the U.S. American malls were busier on the Friday after Thanksgiving when compared to last year, but were still 28.3 percent below 2019 levels, according to Sensormatic Solutions, a shopper traffic analytics firm.

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Moreover, supply shortages due to bottlenecks at the manufacturing level, delays at the ports and even in the transportation lines further compound retail’s uphill battle.

Once considered the traditional start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S., retailers began their campaigns early to get shoppers in their doors early while inventory was still on the shelves. Those early purchases, which began in October, pulled sales earlier into the third quarter. The retail calendar in the U.S. runs through December and into the following January until the end of the month to take into account post-holiday purchases.

But something else also might be afoot too. In the U.S., the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index said this week that the Index fell in November to 109.5 from 111.6 in October. A number of different factors could be weighing on confidence, not the least of which are rising prices due to inflationary headwinds. That’s a global problem as well.

For this past holiday weekend, shoppers in general have noted higher prices, as well as promotions that weren’t as deep and compelling as years past. On Wednesday, the ICSC’s survey of consumer shopping behavior noted that despite extensive deals and promotions, 58 percent of shoppers elected to pass on some purchases due to “too high” prices.