Central London only slightly busier amid Black Friday sales

Central London was only ever so slightly busier thanks to Black Friday deals last week as retail chiefs noted fewer shoppers than pre-pandemic levels.

Central London saw a 2.3 per cent boost to footfall week on week for the week beginning 21 November. Footfall in the area was down 22.3 per cent on 2019 levels, according to retail experts at Springboard.

Instead of high streets, shoppers opted to check out deals at shopping centres and retail parks. This was down to remote workers finding it easier to head out to those locations “rather than visiting high street stores during the working day,” Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard said. 

A reduction in overseas tourists also resulted in a subdued number of people heading to central London and other tourist destinations, Wehrle said. Adverse weather on Saturday also deterred shoppers from visiting cities.

What’s more, London was hit with a 24-hour tube strike on Black Friday, meaning shoppers faced diversions and delays if they wanted to get into the West End. Many opted to work at home to avoid the disruption. 

Wehrle said this “undoubtedly had an impact on footfall,” as office workers chose to remain at home to avoid disruption. 

While footfall on the day did increase 9 per cent, the increase was far lower than the rise in previous years, she added. In both 2019 and 2018 footfall in Central London rose 24 per cent from the week before and 15 per cent on Black Friday in 2017. 

Landlord New West End Company said footfall on Black Friday was up 11 per cent week-on-week but still dramatically below pre-Covid levels with a 40 per cent difference compared to 2019’s discount day.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, said: “Despite the hurdles put in front of them, brands across the West End managed to attract even more visitors in the last week, with footfall figures rising slightly. 

However, these were “marginal gains” given the usual boost from the Black Friday weekend with footfall up just 2 per cent week-on-week.

Tyrrell added: “The weekend’s strike action across the Tube network has clearly left some would-be shoppers at home at a time when high street businesses so desperately need their support. 

“Our hope is that the remaining planned action can be avoided so that high street businesses that are just getting back on their feet don’t have to suffer further in what should be their most profitable season.”

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