The second day of rail strikes this week, with the prospect of further action to come in the run-up to Christmas, has set back the recovery of stores and sent high street footfall plummeting.

RMT rail strike picket sign

More industrial action is scheduled over Christmas and new year

Strike action by members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) over the last two days has seen footfall plummet across UK retail destinations, but it has affected high streets and central London most severely. 

Footfall across all retail destinations fell 17.2% week on week across the whole day on Tuesday.

Throughout the day, footfall on UK high streets fell 26.4% compared with pre-Covid levels, when only the previous week it had recovered to December 2019 levels. 

High street footfall was 5.3% lower than this time in 2021 when the omicron Covid-19 variant was beginning to spread around the UK. 

Commuter-reliant central London was even worse affected, down 30.2% from the week before and by 32.7% in areas close to offices as people chose to work from home to avoid disrupted public transport services. 

These results contrast sharply with the previous week when footfall in central London was 12.2% higher than the week before, as workers and consumers alike poured into the capital for festive events and shopping.

“These results demonstrate the impact that is being felt by retail and hospitality businesses across the UK that rely on a high volume of customers in the run-up to Christmas,” said Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle. 

She warned that, with further rail strike action to go ahead before Christmas and in the early part of 2023, there would be more pain to come for retail and hospitality businesses. 

“The impact on retail and hospitality businesses in what is a critical trading time of the year, less than two weeks before Christmas, will undoubtedly be severe and could mean failure for some,” she added.

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