UK footfall declined 1.2 per cent year-on-year last month as high streets, shopping centres and out-of-town locations recorded fewer visitors than December 2011.
In November, footfall increased 0.4 per cent bringing hope of a positive Christmas season though today’s figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Springboard Footfall Monitor reveal that consumers avoided traditional shopping over the period.
Shopping centres saw a 2.8 per cent decrease in footfall compared with a one per cent drop in out-of-town locations while high streets reported a 0.5 per cent fall.
Regionally, Wales was the hardest hit as footfall dropped 11.5 per cent on the same period in 2011 while the East of England and North & Yorkshire saw decreases of 7.1 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively.
However, the West Midlands saw an improvement in shopper numbers as footfall jumped 10 per cent on December 2011 while Scotland saw a 6.2 per cent rise and Greater London an increase of 3.1 per cent.
Thus, compared with November, shopping centre footfall leapt 19.5 per cent in these areas, while high street and out-of-town locations saw rises of 8.8 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.
Helen Dickinson, Director-General of the BRC, said that, although the figures do not represent a “bumper Christmas”, conversion rates were positive, particularly considering the growing popularity of online shopping which has detrimentally impacted shopper numbers.
Since the start of the year, four household name retailers have collapsed into administration as a result of increasing competition from the digital space as well as the rising pressure on bricks and mortar companies due to business rate payments.
Nonetheless, Dickinson noted the relevance of high street shopping and called on the Government to ease pressure on retailers.
“High streets have a particular appeal at Christmas,” she said.
“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. This month’s retail failures confirm the challenges are far from over.
“The Government should help erase the pain with a business rates freeze in April.
“Another steep rise can only lead to fewer jobs, less investment and more troubled high streets.”