Retail footfall in decline once again in December

Tuesday, 14 January 2014
UK's high streets witnessed a poor showing of Christmas shoppers last month, as new data shows the number of visitors declined 3.7 percent in December in comparison to the same period last year. Data published by the the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard reveal that during the last quarter of 2013, UK's high street were hit the hardest, with a 3.8 percent decline, which is the worst drop in retail footfall since August 2012. According to the figures released by the BRC/Springboard monitor, UK's overall retail footfall was 2.4 percent lower than a year ago and double the 1.2 percent decline reported in December 2012.


However the 2.4 percent overall drop was a slight improvement from the 2.9 percent drop witnessed in November and slightly higher than the three-month average decline of 2.7 percent, but for the many retailers who has hoped for a Christmas push after a disappointing autumn it was not sufficient to boost sales.


UK's retail footfall drops as online non-food sales rises

Helen Dickinson, director General at BRC commented: “These figures highlight how the rapid evolution of multichannel is changing the face of shopping, particularly at Christmas. Rather than making multiple trips to the shops over the festive period, many of us planned ahead for our gift-buying and took advantage of retailers’ investment in services like click and collect so that they could cover off their festive spending at their convenience."

“The timing of Christmas was also a major factor behind peaks and troughs in shopper numbers during December – with the big day falling on a Wednesday many people held off on finalising their festive spending in the last few days. We saw in last week’s sales figures that the final result was respectable overall, with multichannel the ‘story of the season’. These figures similarly highlight that continuing caution and changing spending habits were central themes of Christmas trading in 2013.”

British high street's felt the lack of shoppers more than out-of-town retail locations, which dropped 0.6 percent in December, less than the three-month average decline of 1.2 percent, while retail footfall in shopping centers fell 1.5 percent in December.All seven regions surveyed reported a decline in footfall, and only one region in England reported footfall below the UK average, the South West with a 3.4 percent drop.

The retail footfall data supports previous reports published by the BRC and KPMG, which reported that the weakest retail sales for the year in the UK lead to early discounting and weak Christmas sales. Total retail sales rose by just 0.4 percent on a like-for-like basis in the UK in December, the slowest growth recorded for the year, without including Easter. The one sector that did report strong growth was the online sales of non-food products in the UK, which increased 19.2 percent in December, compared to the same period last year.

Dian Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard concurs with Dickinson and adds: “Unfortunately November’s warning of a challenging Christmas trading period came to pass. Footfall increased over the month from November, but the uplift was just not enough to deliver an increase from December 2012 and footfall dropped annually by -2.4 percent."

“The drop in footfall was double that of December 2012 but, unlike last year, high streets bore the brunt with an annual decline of more than double that in shopping centres. The combination of the emphasis by retailers to drive online sales and the discounting introduced by retailers early on in the month meant that shoppers delayed visits to retail destinations until as late as possible which adversely affected footfall early on in the month."

"And then, over the last weekend before Christmas, severe weather suppressed what retailers hoped would be the last burst of peak trading activity so that footfall did not have an opportunity to recover before the holiday period."

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