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Boxing Day shoppers up by nearly 40% but still lower than before pandemic

The number of Boxing Day shoppers rose by nearly 40% compared to last year but remained below pre-pandemic levels as cost of living pressures weigh on consumers.

More shoppers were drawn to Boxing Day sales this year than last in all retail settings across the UK, according to data from retail analytics company Springboard.

By 12pm on Boxing Day, footfall was up 50.1% on 2021, the company’s data shows.

Footfall increased by 44.1% on high streets, 40.4% in shopping centres and 25.9% in retail parks across the day as a whole.

Springboard’s data shows Boxing Day footfall in the UK was 38.8% higher than in 2021 by the end of the day.

In central London, the number of shoppers was up 139.2% on 2021 at 12pm. By the end of the day it was 66% higher overall compared to 2021.

By midday on Boxing Day, the greatest increase was recorded in Northern Ireland where five times as many people attended 26 December sales.

Footfall was 18.2% lower than Boxing Day in 2019 across all UK retail destinations by the end of the day, showing there were still less than shoppers than before the pandemic.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, comments: “Boxing Day was far from doom and gloom this year; there was a better performance on Boxing Day morning with a +50.1% increase in footfall, however footfall remained strong overall, with a +38.8% increase across the UK versus 2021.

“These positive results come in line with the first Christmas post-pandemic without any formal social restrictions and in spite of the cost of living crisis and the rail strikes, which inevitably affect retailers negatively.

“High streets came out on top overall with a +44.1% increase, while Central London defied all expectations with an overall climb in footfall of +66%, decreasing the gap from pre-pandemic 2019 Boxing Day levels to just -7.8%, which comes as very welcome and promising news for retailers in the capital.”

Before Christmas, footfall had been lower as rail strikes and snow deterred shoppers, official figures showed.

In the week up to 18 December, overall footfall dropped by 6% on the previous week and 23% of the 2019 level, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said, quoting Springboard data.

High streets were the worst affected, with footfall down 12% during the seven days up to 18 December, from the week earlier.

During the week from Monday 12 December two 48 hour rail strikes took place, on 13, 14, 15 and 16 December.

Sales also began earlier this year with many major retailers discounting products before the traditional Boxing Day date.

Both Debenhams and John Lewis department stores rolled out price reductions a week ahead of normal schedule. Online retailer Asos also cut prices in advance of 26 December.

While snow has thawed, rail strikes are continuing and will last until 29 December. They will begin again in the new year on 3 to 7 January as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers seeks improvements in pay and guarantees on jobs and conditions.

There was a surprise fall in retail sales recorded in November as shoppers remained cautious due to increased prices from inflation in the run-up to Christmas. Inflation stood at 10.7% in November.

The Office for National Statistics reported a fall in sales volumes of 0.3% compared to October when the effects of fuel sales were excluded.

Growth of 0.3% was expected by economists given reports of healthy interest, and spending, on goods during the key bargain-hunting period of Black Friday.

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