Vendors across the UK have experienced an overall 11.5% drop in footfall since 2019, according to CACI.

This has been driven by visit frequency, which has dropped 31% over the last five years.

However, the amount spent by customers during fewer visits has climbed 29% in the same period, which is higher than inflation growth, highlighting a key shift in consumer shopping behaviours.

CACI’s Shopper Dimensions dataset tracks trends across more than 150 retail and leisure venues to find that ‘Big day out’ missions are becoming the more engaging trips for consumers. While less frequent, these combine the total experience across retail, leisure, and F&B, and deliver 2.4 times the spend of an average trip.

‘Big day out’ missions grew from 15% in 2019 to 23% of all shopper missions in 2023, with ‘routine top-up’ trips – which offer less than half the spend of an average trip – dropping from 23% to 14%.

The Shopper Dimensions data aligns with a consumer survey conducted by CACI in May, looking at where people are visiting for different trip types. The Centre Dynamics dataset evaluates how tenant line-ups have changed at more than 6,000 locations across the country.

The two locations classes that appeal the most people for a ‘big day out’, according to the survey, have been the most likely to increase their F&B and leisure provision in recent years.

100% of the UK’s regional malls and 96% of city centres now have more F&B, with 64% and 72% for leisure, respectively. As a consequence, each attracts more than 30% of ‘big day out’ trips.

The data analyses the changing relationship between people and place to highlight how and why a national footfall reduction at retail environments is still leading to rising spend.

Tolga Necar, Principal Consultant at CACI, said: “Consumer behaviours have shifted, especially when it comes to retail. We know from our Voice of the Nation survey and Shopper Dimensions that where, when, and why people visit a place is changing, with those ‘big day out’ trips becoming more valuable and engaging. Landlords are clearly seeing it too, given the rebalance towards more leisure and F&B we’re seeing in destinations up and down the country. A lot of weight, however, is still given to footfall figures to determine long-term, commercial success.

“Our data shows that a decline in footfall is not equating to a declining spend, and actually, the less frequent visits are the ones we should be paying more attention to. It is time to leave pre-pandemic comparisons behind, and the evolution of consumer behaviour demonstrates that destinations are now more valuable than ever. Creating engaging places, that effectively convert visits into turnover, is so much more important than the footfall number itself in this new shopper landscape.”