Rail strikes ‘key’ reason for drop in pre-Christmas street visits

High street visits fell last week, according to industry data showing a ‘key’ impact of rail strikes amid wider evidence of a hit to the economy from industrial action.

Springboard reported that the number of shoppers across Britain fell 4.6% last week from the previous week due to disruption to public transport – also responsible for a sharp drop in occupation of the offices last Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

The report says that while the cold and snowy weather also played a part, it was the main streets that suffered the most – down more than 10% – as people worked from home.

Footfall in retail parks and shopping malls was not as affected.

He noted a bigger drop on strike days – with high street footfall dropping an average of 15.7% from the previous week on Tuesday and Wednesday alone.

Saturday’s big shopping day was also hit by the strike organized by the RMT union across the network, involving Network Rail staff and workers from 14 operating companies.

The Night Time Industries Association has hit the walkouts, warning that its members, including pubs and clubs, were set to lose £2billion in revenue over the festive season due to business losses and canceled reservations.

Its chief executive, Michael Kill, said: “Feedback from members across the UK suggested the strike had a deeper impact than expected, with businesses seeing a drop of more than 50% in weekend trade. busiest end of the year.”

“With an estimated £2bn lost revenue and costs set to rise in the new year, the current business environment is untenable for businesses.”

He warned that a “large number” of businesses would go to the wall at the start of the new year unless the government intervened to support the night economy and the wider hotel sectors.

All businesses that depend on discretionary consumer spending are struggling with weaker demand due to the cost of living crisis while coping with their own rising costs.

Official data released on Friday showed retail sales slipped unexpectedly in November, despite the FIFA World Cup and
Black Friday sales promotions are heightening fears that the country is already in recession.

Diane Wehrle, director of information at Springboard, said: “Last week – the week before Christmas – should have been a peak week for retail destinations and stores, with footfall expected to increase from the previous week. as Christmas shopping nears its zenith.

“Instead, footfall at UK retail destinations fell last week. As cold weather prevailed, which would no doubt have had some impact, the contrast to the results for the clearly demonstrates that it was the rail strikes that were the main impact on ridership.”

The report came as retailers worried about the impact of strikes at Royal Mail on online orders over the Christmas season.

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