Footfall across all UK retail destinations was resilient in January despite disruptions caused by rail strikes, according to the latest MRI Software data.

Rail strike notice on electronic information board at station

Rail strikes and storms dampened footfall at the start of 2024

Retail footfall in January fell 20.1% compared to December 2023. This was in line with the post-Christmas dip in footfall with an average decline of 22.6% in January from 2009 to 2020.

However, footfall deteriorated compared to the month-on-month decline of 18.8% in January 2023.

Shopping centres saw the largest drop in footfall, down by 23.3%, followed by high streets and retail parks where footfall fell 20.4% and 16.2% respectively.

Annual footfall across all UK retail destinations decreased by 0.8%, which was higher than the historical trend of footfall declining by an average of 1.3%  in January from 2009 to 2020.

Retail park annual footfall increased by 2% week on week in the first week of January, helped by the delayed return to offices and schools.

Annual footfall to high streets and shopping centres declined by 0.8% and 6.5%, most likely affected by stormy weather conditions and travel disruption across the UK.

Jenni Matthews, marketing and insights director and MRI Software said: “January was also bookended with severe weather and travel disruptions; however, this failed to dampen activity within UK’s high streets with only a marginal drop in footfall witnessed during the first week and a rise of 4.4% in the final week of the month when Storms Isha and Jocelyn caused chaos across parts of the UK.

“With much of the weather disruption occurring throughout the weekday period, weekend footfall rebounded by 4.2% year on year across all retail destinations versus a decline of -2.6% during the week.

“This was driven by a rise in weekend activity during week one and week four, which followed the storms. The middle of the month, weeks two and three, saw footfall decline by an average of -3.5% during the weekend versus just -2% throughout the week. This may well 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 – in close proximity this year, it could serve as a benevolent boost for retail in the first quarter of 2024.”