Retail footfall dips year-on-year over Christmas period

Retailers experienced lower footfall year-on-year in December in further evidence to suggest that brick and mortar outlets are losing ground to online operators.


Retailers experienced lower footfall year-on-year in December in further evidence to suggest that brick and mortar outlets are losing ground to online operators.

Retailers experienced lower footfall year-on-year in December in further evidence to suggest that brick and mortar outlets are losing ground to online operators. 

Footfall was 1.2 per cent less than a year ago, a poorer performance than the 0.4 per cent year-on-year rise the previous month, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).



Shopping centres reported the greatest fall (-2.8 per cent), followed by out-of-town (-1.0 per cent) and high street (-0.5 per cent) locations.



The hardest-hit parts of the UK in December were Wales (-11.5 per cent), the East of England (-7.1 per cent) and the North and Yorkshire (-4.8 per cent). 



Four locations reported an increase in footfall, including the West Midlands (10 per cent), Scotland (6.2 per cent) and Greater London (3.1 per cent).



On a month-on-month basis footfall rose considerably in all locations. Shopping centres increased 19.5 per cent followed by high street (8.8 per cent) and out-of-town (7.3 per cent) locations.



BRC director general Helen Dickinson says, ‘It wasn’t a bumper Christmas but it wasn’t a disaster either. Our December retail sales figures showed very modest sales growth for the market as a whole.

Although overall shopper numbers were slightly down on 2011, it appears that conversion rates were good – when people did get out to the shops they bought more per trip. The growing popularity of online retail also had an impact on shopper numbers.’

Dickinson adds that high streets have a particular appeal at Christmas. ‘They had a smaller drop in footfall than shopping centres or out-of-town locations but, across the year as a whole, it’s a different story. At minus 3.3 per cent, high streets suffered the biggest drop-off in shopper numbers.

‘Generally, weak spending power is keeping people away and compounding long-standing difficulties in many of our town centres.’



Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard adds, ‘In December, customers were savvy to retailers’ discounting, leaving it very late to do the bulk of their Christmas shopping, holding off until the last full week before Christmas when footfall increased annually by 7.5 per cent.

‘However, this late surge wasn’t enough to drive footfall up from last year, leaving the month down by 1.2 per cent year on year.’

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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