Scottish footfall slumps by -22.6% in January


THE LATEST monthly insights from MRI Software (previously Springboard) show that footfall in January dropped -22.6% compared to December in Scotland. The drop was anticipated, as footfall slumped in-line with the traditional post-Christmas dip which has average -22.9% since 2009. Adverse weather conditions and uncertainty around household finances, led to significant drop of -2.2% compared to 2023 levels in a challenging month for Scottishretail.

As anticipated, January’s footfall results follow the traditional post- Christmas dip with activity in retail destinations declining by -22.6% from December 2023. 

Historically, this decline in footfall has averaged -26.7% in January from 2009 – which is when MRI Software first started publishing its footfall benchmarks – to 2020, therefore this year’s month on month result is an improvement on this. The drop in footfall was most prominent in shopping centres (-26.5%), closely followed by high streets (-23.1%) and then retail parks (-17.7%) aligning with the natural historical trend for Scotland’s retail destinations. 

Annually, footfall fell by -2.2% which is an improvement from the historical trend of footfall declining by an average of -3.5% in January from 2009 to 2020. This modest drop suggests that despite ongoing economic challenges driven by the current inflation rate sitting at 4% as well as the overall cost of living burdens that many households are continuing to face, consumers appear to be navigating these pressures well. More so, households yet to witness a rise in mortgage payments are likely to consider these factors into their expenditure planning for the upcoming year. 

The delayed return to offices and schools in the first week of January benefitted mainly high streets where footfall rose by +1.8% week on week compared with declines in retail parks (-1.2%) and shopping centres (-9.1%). January was also bookended with severe weather and travel disruptions however this failed to dampen activity within Scotland’s high streets with a rise in footfall witnessed during the first week (+1.8%) but did impact footfall in the final week of the month with a modest decline of -1.8% when Storms Isha and Jocelyn caused chaos across parts of the UK, particularly in Scotland.

Marketing & Insights Director at MRI Insights, Jenni Matthews, commented: “With much of the weather disruption occurring throughout the weekday period, weekend footfall rebounded by +5% year on year across Scotland’s retail destinations versus a decline of -5.9% during the week. This was driven by a significant rise in weekend activity during week one (+38.7%) and week two (+4%). The end of the month (weeks three and four) saw footfall decline by an average of -3.9% during the weekend versus a more significant drop averaging -8.5% throughout the week which followed Storms Isha and Jocelyn. This may also signal the tightening of purse strings for many if they had been paid the week before Christmas however a rise in footfall during week four coincides with payday for many across the UK.

While the post-Christmas slump is evident in January’s footfall figures, the retail sector and businesses reliant on visitors travelling in by train are set to face challenges in the first half of February due to an unprecedented number of planned rail strikes. However, optimism prevails with half term approaching as this historically tends to deliver a much-needed surge in footfall following the festive period. Furthermore, with Easter break – the second biggest trading period for retail outside of Christmas – also in close proximity this year, it could serve as a benevolent boost for retail in the first quarter of 2024.”

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