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Festive footfall best performance since January 2014

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Footfall figures released today by Springboard and the British Retail Consortium for the full month of December 2014 show a 1.3% increase in retail parks but declines in high streets and shopping centres of 1.8% year-on-year and 0.1% year-on-year respectively.

Overall UK retail footfall in December was down by 0.7% year-on-year, with a particularly negative influence from key individual trading days (Christmas Eve and Boxing Day), but figures for the wider 2014 Christmas trading period reveal footfall was down 1.3% year-on-year for October-December.

This shows that despite the pressure of Black Friday and increasing move to online shopping impacting the power of bricks and mortar stores, December remained the strongest month for footfall and positively, the declines seen were half as significant as those seen in the same month the previous year.

It seems the impact of online shopping and Click and Collect is inconclusive. On one hand, Click and Collect may have contributed to driving footfall back into stores across December as a whole – but online’s influence may have also caused the footfall decline around Christmas Eve and Boxing Day’s traditional shop-floor rush. Click and Collect may also be building the influence of retail parks thanks to their convenience as a place to collect and due to the benefit of free parking and good accessibility. It will be interesting to see how these retail forces, both in terms of shopping destinations and the dominance of online, play out in 2015.

BRC Director General, Helen Dickinson, said:

A decline of 1.8% in the number of high street shoppers might not at first glance look like great news for retailers but it’s heartening to see the pace of decline in High Street footfall slowing so dramatically from November to December. This is undoubtedly a result of the continuing changes in the way we all prefer to shop. It’s worth noting that fewer shoppers doesn’t necessarily equal poorer sales – in fact, we know that sales have been strong across the Christmas period. This tells us that retailers are getting to grips with the way people’s shopping habits are changing and using methods like click-and-collect to drive internet traffic toward physical stores while, at the same time, targeting discounts to encourage higher sales. What we are seeing currently is the online and physical retailing finding out how they best fit together in the new multi-channel world.”

Diane Wehrle, Retail Insights Director at Springboard, said:

‘’Footfall across the UK in December belied the prevailing furore over the impact on bricks and mortar stores of both Black Friday and the move to online shopping, with just a modest drop of 0.7 % from December 2013. Retail Parks finished the year as they began with an increase in footfall, albeit that the increase in footfall in out of town locations has been on a downward trajectory since the largest rise of 5.7% was recorded in January. The most positive result, however, is that footfall in both high streets and shopping centres is in an improved position compared with both November and with December last year. Indeed, the drop in high street footfall of 1.8% is half the decline recorded in December 2013, and the 0.1% drop in shopping centres is both a significant improvement on the 1.5% recorded in December last year and the most modest decrease of any month this year.

Whilst online shopping becomes ever more mature, and shoppers are increasingly demanding in terms of choice and flexibility to buy, the improved footfall position of our retail destinations in what is our peak trading period of the year indicates that online is driving activity back into bricks and mortar stores. As yet it is inconclusive as to the relative influence of showrooming and click and collect in the omni-channel experience, but what is clear is that if retailers want shoppers to continue to visit their stores then ever more investment is required to deliver the heightened shopping experience that is now demanded.’’

Published on Friday 16 January by Veebs Sabharwal

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