The Latest OOH Audience Mobility Insights and Shopping Habits

Since physical stores have reopened, we’ve seen people embrace visits to safe shopping centres in significant numbers, with mall and shopping centre footfall returning to pre-lockdown levels in recent weeks. Despite restrictions, we’re seeing the desire of audiences to safely return to physical stores and their intent to spend remain strong.


Through Ada, our OOH data management platform, we’ve looked into malls and discovered a trend in footfall peaking on Saturdays as audiences visit these locations as part of a day out. When looking at all visits to malls across the UK, there were key regions that had higher than average visits to malls, including London, the South East and the Midlands. Our research also found that London visits to malls were nearly double the expected audience, as the desire for normality resulted in visits to key malls such as Bluewater and Westfield Stratford.

In areas where local restrictions had been implemented, such as the North West and the North East, we’ve seen a slight knock on effect of visits to malls, as is to be expected. However, despite this, the Trafford Centre in Manchester was the 8th most visited UK mall in September.


In September, British retail sales defied expectations, recording a +1.5% boost, 4.7% higher than a year earlier and 5.5% higher than before the pandemic started in February. Research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) also recorded the biggest quarterly leap on record for retail sales up +17.4%, covering July to September.  However, despite the increase, shoppers are making fewer trips to malls than before; meaning that when they do, they are more determined to purchase something.  

Positive consumer sentiment remains, despite restrictions, research from ONS found that 55% of consumers would not decrease their spending over the upcoming peak Christmas period, and if stores continue to remain open in a near normal capacity, this number increases to 80%. Further research from Mintel also found that 43% of people are not satisfied waiting for products to be delivered from shopping online, meaning that they will return to physical stores in greater numbers at some point this quarter. 

An Ada analysis of Christmas shopping trends found that footfall to malls and department stores overindex from the middle of November. For advertisers looking to reach audiences within Christmas Shopping mindset, campaign activation from November is recommended.  

Last year, Ada showed a major spike in high street audiences, particularly to malls. There’s no reason to suspect that people won’t be tempted to shop at malls serving their local community given the safe environment and relief from online shopping. We already know that 86% plan to shop both online and instore for gifts, and advertisers can capitalise on short term OOH activation around the inevitable last-minute buying.


With retail sales rising in Q3 and footfall in malls increasing despite the uncertainty of new restrictions, we’re seeing that audiences are still mobile, and we expect numbers to rise even higher throughout Q4. Research suggests consumers are still planning to spend just as much on gifts as they would usually do. There remain numerous flexible opportunities to reach audiences in a purchase mindset in proximity to the retail decision, targeting audiences flexibly or to dominate environments around key occasions like Black Friday. With shopper audiences largely unaffected through current regulations, brands can genuinely reach and influence shoppers at this critical moment with broadcast, branding and actionable messages.