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Footfall sees biggest decline in nearly five years highlighting shift to online

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New report shows

Shopper behavious is unsurprisingly continuing to shift to online according to the December’s BRC-Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor.

Highlights include:

  • Year-on-year, December footfall decreased sharply by 3.5 per cent, the biggest decline since March 2013 when it dropped by 5.2 per cent.
  • The December monthly year-on-year figure was significantly below the three-month rolling average of -1.9 per cent and the twelve-month rolling average of -0.7 per cent.
  • All regions showed a drop in footfall for December, the sharpest reductions being experienced by Scotland (4.7 per cent), South West (5.2 per cent) and Greater London (3.7 per cent)
  • Of the three shopping locations, only retail parks saw two regions showing growth:  South East (0.9 per cent) and West Midlands (0.1 per cent).
  • Scotland saw a decline of 4.7 per cent, the largest fall since April 2016 (6.2 per cent).
  • Footfall declined by 3.1 per cent in Northern Ireland in December compared to a 2.4 per cent decline in November (now seven months of consecutive decline) and close to the UK average decrease of 3.5 per cent.
  • In Wales, Footfall changed course in December and declined by 2.6 per cent from November which saw positive growth of 0.9 per cent.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive of British Retail Consortium commented:

“The sharp drop in footfall this December, while sales grew overall, underlines how shopping is being transformed by the shift to online. In the past, shoppers would have exclusively visited physical stores to ensure stockings were filled for Christmas. Improved delivery options by both purely digital retailers and those with stores and an online offer mean many purchases of last minute gifts are moving online.

“The squeeze on discretionary spending also contributed to the decline in footfall. Households had to use their money more carefully, researching products online, rather than heading out to stores to browse.

“Retail parks fared slightly better than high streets by providing Christmas shoppers with the draw and convenience of parking, easy click-and-collect, and leisure facilities.”

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director, Springboard commented:

“The drop in footfall of -3.3 per cent in the weeks leading up to Christmas provided a heads up for December, with the final outcome of -3.5 per cent of little surprise.  This is a significant weakening in performance from December 2016 when footfall in retail destinations dropped by just -0.2 per cent, and it is the worst result for any month since March 2013.  But it was high streets and shopping centres that struggled in attracting customers, whilst strengthening in retail parks, from -0.7 per cent last December to -0.6 per cent this year.  The resilience of retail parks reflects the rise in online activity in December, which drives click and collect trips, and the better trading performance of food stores versus non-food retailers. 

“The poor non-food LFL in-store sales growth clearly reflects the more severe drop in footfall during retail trading hours in December, than over the entire 24 hour period (-5.1 per cent in high streets and by -4.1 per cent in shopping centres); and is further compounded by a declining store capture rate.  Representing the per cent of footfall entering stores, it means that shops are losing footfall more quickly than wider retail locations and so have a declining customer base. Moving forward into 2018, it is apparent that retailers need to focus on maximising conversion via the core deliverable of best product and customer service with an improved in-store experience, whilst holding their nerve and resisting discounting too early and so protecting margin.”




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