Retail intelligence expert Springboard forecasts that footfall across all UK retail destinations today will be +12.8% higher than Black Friday 2021, although the gap from Black Friday 2019 will still be -7.8%.

According to Springboard, shoppers will be driven to seek out the Black Friday discounts ahead of Christmas this year, over growing concerns around rising inflation rates – currently at 11.1% – as well as Christmas supply issues, meaning that shoppers are at risk of not getting the gifts they want this year.

Furthermore, with more and more UK households set to really feel the pinch this year, further exemplified by the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, budgets will be limited. This will lead to shoppers being more discerning about their spend and they will also want to make the most of the festive shopping experience, which was lost during the Covid years, states Springboard.

Additionally, it says, the attraction of shopping in physical retail spaces far outweighs online this Christmas, due to the rise in postage charges and the cost of returns.

Despite the forecast increase in footfall on Black Friday from the previous week and from 2021, footfall across all retail destinations is set to remain -7.8% lower than on Black Friday in 2019. On high streets, the gap from the 2019 footfall level will be -9.5%, and -12.1% in shopping centres, but footfall in retail parks is set to rise to +0.5%.

UK shopping centres are set to benefit most from Black Friday, with footfall set to be up +16.3% YoY. Shopping centres are particularly attractive over Black Friday as their retailers tend to actively participate in Black Friday discounts that consumers will be looking to make the most of. YoY footfall increases at shopping centres will be followed closely by high streets (+13.2%) and retail parks (+8.5%).

The greater uplift in footfall from last year in shopping centres will be due to a larger rise from the previous Friday than in high streets or retail parks (+20.1% in shopping centres versus +15.7% in high streets and +11.8% in retail parks).

Last year, footfall in high streets on Black Friday declined from the week before by -0.3% versus rises of +17.3% in shopping centres and +11.8% in retail parks. However, this was likely to have been an anomaly of Covid, says Springboard, when shoppers were cautious about visiting congested town centres in contrast to the perceived greater safety of larger managed spaces of shopping centres and retail parks.

In every year prior to Covid, footfall in high streets rose by more than +10% on Black Friday, averaging +19.9% between 2014-19 and peaking at +29.3% in 2014, +21.3% in 2016 and +25% in 2019. In contrast, the WoW increase in footfall in shopping centres on Black Friday over the equivalent six-year period averaged +25.2% an +18.4% in retail parks.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, says: “The uplift will be driven by a rise in footfall of +15.9% on Black Friday from the week before as shoppers make the most of available discounts to purchase Christmas gifts as they endeavour to outpace inflation, just announced to have risen to 11.1%. A further driver of footfall over Black Friday is likely to be potential stock shortages of desired gifts due to increased supply costs incurred by retailers which may limit stock replenishment. This is likely to provide a greater incentive for shoppers to purchase Christmas gifts early rather than wait and run the risk of their favoured gift being out of stock.

"As household budgets become increasingly squeezed - further emphasised in the Chancellor’s new Autumn Statement - shoppers become more discerning in their purchasing decisions. This creates a greater desire amongst shoppers to browse and purchase in physical retail stores rather than online, as they are able to engage more fully with the product and feel more confident that they are making the correct purchasing decision. At the same time, for many shoppers Black Friday will provide the first opportunity this year to savour the Christmas spirit and to enjoy the Christmas decorations and lights in high streets and shopping centres, particularly as many shoppers stayed away from physical stores over the previous two years."

Offering an on-the-day update, Diane adds: "The results for the period to 12pm today show that footfall across all UK retail destinations is +7.3% higher than last Friday, but the winners so far are shopping centres, where footfall is +13.9% higher than last week. Footfall is higher than last year too - +4.6% above Black Friday 2021 across all destinations, but +8% higher in high streets despite the increase in footfall from last week of +4.2% not being as great as that in shopping centres. Shoppers are heading to large city centres rather than smaller high streets, with footfall in Central London +11.1% higher than last week and +7.7% higher in city centres across the UK, compared with a drop in footfall from last week of -3.2% in market towns.

"The footfall data demonstrates that whilst trading conditions are challenging Black Friday is certainly not a disaster. We are also expecting footfall to strengthen this afternoon as those consumers who are working from home go shopping after lunch. The dry and sunny weather will also help drive up activity, as will the UK versus USA world cup match this evening as shoppers may well head into towns and cities and do some shopping and then watch the match from bars in town centres.”