Digital Black Friday sees UK footfall down 77% year-on-year, as covid sees shoppers shun High Streets


The first fully-digital Black Friday saw UK retail footfall down 77% year-on-year, as most non-essential retail remained closed during the second lockdown, the latest ShopperTrak data from Sensormatic Solutions, reveals.

In England, which has a national lockdown in place, this fell to -98%.  Even in Wales, which saw shopper traffic to recover to -31% in the weekend after its Fire Break lockdown ended, Black Friday footfall dipped again by -40% year-on-year, as shoppers headed online to pick up bargains.

Despite an online boom in spending, with John Lewis reporting ecommerce sales up 35% and international ecommerce sales up 15% according to eShopWorld *, this will do little to console the many shops which remain shut.  Closed just at the time they need to be taking Christmas trade, this risks putting extra pressure on retailers’ store networks once they reopen on 2nd December, as Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic’s Retail Consultant for EMEA, explained:

“Black Friday’s footfall wipe-out won’t come as a surprise, as England remains in the grip of a second national lockdown and shops remain closed.  The real test for retailers comes as its non-essential stores reopen next week.”

Original research of over 1,000 UK shoppers by Sensormatic in its latest report showed that before the four-week lockdown was announced, 27% of UK consumers had planned to start Christmas shopping in November and just 16% said they would leave it to the last minute in December. 

Now, Sensormatic’s research suggests, more than twice as many shoppers are expected to hit the High Street in December’s three week window between retail re-opening and Christmas Day.  This will create a festive shopping frenzy, prompted by fears online fulfilment networks and warehouses will become overwhelmed, causing delays to deliveries and risking gifts not arriving in time.

“We expect twice as many shoppers to hit the High Street in December as pent-up demand combined with a compressed Christmas shopping period will drive customers into store,” Sumpter continued.  “More than ever before, the shopping public will rely on bricks-and-mortar retail to save the day for their last-minute shopping needs. The challenge of managing a condensed three-week festive shopping window, whilst keeping shoppers and colleagues safe, will be hard work, and may require some fun and festive spirit from all involved.”

Other shoppers not respecting social distancing tops concerns about in-store shopping for 47% of UK consumers, Sensormatic’s research showed, followed by long queues caused by social distancing (43%), product availability (21%) and store cleanliness (17%).

By leveraging insight from shopper traffic trends, retailers can better manage store occupancy levels, and can overlay this information with staff scheduling and inventory fulfilment, so they can deliver safe in-store experiences whilst capitalising on Christmas sales. It also helps retailers identify the best times for staff to walk the floor and serve customers during peak times, whilst also undertaking essential tasks, like restocking, regular hygiene measures or managing click and collect orders when the store is less busy.