Footfall in England declines in first weekend since mandatory face masks were introduced


Footfall across all UK retail destinations rose over the week by 4.4% for the seven days ending Saturday, July 25, but remains 38.4% lower than for the same period in 2019.

In an update from retail analyst Springboard, figures show footfall building slowly but consistently in the weeks since non-essential retailers were allowed to open.

There are concerns that mandating the wearing of face coverings in shops would dent confidence and keep shoppers away, and this week’s data appears to suggest there has been a greater reluctance to hit stores.


On Friday and Saturday, the first two days where face coverings in England became mandatory in retail stores, footfall in retail destinations declined by an average of -1.7%.

England was the only nation where footfall declined on these two days, rising by an average of +2.7% in Wales and +1.8% in Northern Ireland.

Week on week % change in footfall








Northern Ireland
All Destinations 4.4% 4.0% 8.7% 6.4% 9.4%


High Streets 5.2% 4.7% 11.4% 6.5% 11.1%
Retail Parks 2.4% 2.2% 6.8% 2.1% 1.0%
Shopping Centres 4.8% 4.3% 5.1% 10.4% 4.3%
Year on year % change in footfall








Northern Ireland
All Destinations -38.4% -38.7% -33.6% -37.8% -29.9%
High Streets -45.7% -46.2% -45.8% -43.9% -33.2%
Retail Parks -19.9% -20.4% 6.8% -18.4% 1.0%
Shopping Centres -40.9% -40.8% -47.2% -43.6% -19.9%

However, in Scotland which is the only other nation where face coverings are mandatory, footfall rose by an average of +5.3% on Friday and Saturday, which suggests that others factors are likely to have come into play, such as heavy rain on Saturday that hit high street footfall but attracted more people to shopping centres.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard commented: “Last week delivered another first — the first time that wearing a face covering became mandatory in retail stores and enclosed destinations in England. The first few days of the latest government guidelines has not yet delivered conclusive evidence of its impact on activity in bricks and mortar destinations, however it is positive news for retailers that the annual performance is continuing to improve.”


  1. Two points to raise here.
    Firstly, England is ahead of the curve in the return to non essential retailing versus Scotland and Wales, Masks are compulsory in Scotland but not in Wales (yet?) Its difficult to measure, but a like for like v Scotland and Wales need to be tempered with these factors,
    Secondly and in my view more importantly, the high street retailers and most importantly the independents need to be focused on the changing weather conditions in the UK . In England we have been basking in sunshine and dry weather for the majority of the days since non essential retailing returned. Retailers may need to consider finding socially distanced waiting areas inside their store footprint, rather than waiting outside in the cold and rain. If space is unavailable in store, then adapting the entrances, to allow sheltered waiting areas for customers in socially distanced queues outside of stores, may need applications to local councils for the erection of coverings on the public foot ways and that requires planning, investigating and (even more) investment for retailers.
    Face masks may or may not deter customers back into bricks and mortar retailing but the good (bad) old British weather will definitely have an impact on our high street stores in the months ahead of us.

  2. 4 months too late, that’s if in fact wearing a mask actually does anything other than starve your body of oxygen.
    Your organs need oxygen to survive, wearing a mask reduces the oxygen level in your blood, long term mask wearing could and probably will cause long term damage to your health in my opinion.
    I’ll be staying away from anywhere I am forced to wear one, I don’t believe it would be of any benefit 4 months too late.
    I feel sorry for all the retailers who are struggling, and even more sorry for those who have lost their business because of this. Not to mention all those who have been made redundant, and for those who will lose their jobs in the not too distant future.
    What a complete and utter organised mess.

  3. Agree with G – I’ll be staying away from shops (unless absolutely essential) until the requirement to wear a mask is dropped. Wearing a mask should be personal choice, not mandated by law.

  4. Between this and the “nappy state” article, this is straying into lazy, agenda-driven journalism of the sub Toby Young variety. We get it, Rob. You don’t want to wear a mask.
    There are many variables which could lead to a tailing off in high street footfall. Weather, localised spikes in virus cases leading to greater caution, a slowing of the rising curve after an initial boost immediately following the loosening of restrictions. Masks could indeed be a factor but the situation is very much more complicated than your sensationalist headline would suggest.
    As for the comment suggesting masks reduce oxygen uptake into the body, I would very much like to know which sources are cited here. I’m sure surgeons and their teams who wear masks for the duration of 12-14 hour operations would be very concerned at this revelation. Soldiers wearing CBRN masks in combat situations in the heat of the desert might scoff at the “hardship” of placing a piece of cloth in front of your face to control an ongoing global pandemic.
    People get into their cars with mandated safety features, put on their legally required seatbelts, drive at the legal speed limits to buildings constructed to mandated safety standards, buy products that have met legal quality and safety requirements and eat food from premises that are constantly monitored by government agencies to ensure the food being served is safe to eat. But being asked to wear a mask in order to protect others is an infringement of civil liberties? Oh, please!

    • Comparing soldiers and surgeons going about their jobs to people popping out to shops is quite pathetic and yes being TOLD to wear masks (to protect others or not) is an infringement of civil liberties, not to mention four months too late. If wearing masks is such a sure fire way of protecting people why the hell are shop staff not required to wear them ?? The death rate has slowed so much so that it gets barely a mention on the news and all the talk has now changed to infection rates which seemingly have increased as the rate of testing has increased, wonder if those two things are connected in any way. The total number of deaths is meaningless as Public Health England have now admitted citing Covid 19 as the cause of death even if someone had recovered from it and died from other causes. Making shopping which is a chore more of chore is not going to entice people out into stores unless they really need to and is a sure fire way of accelerating the current trend of ordering online, the death of the high street has now been assured and the economy is going with it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here