Footfall in UK retail recovered in November after a poor run in October, thanks to a boost from Black Friday shopping.
According to latest Retail Traffic Index, compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance, the average weekly footfall grew 4.5 per cent on the previous month, while the footfall gap against the same month in 2016 narrowed to -4.7 per cent.
The index also indicated that in-store traffic on Black Friday itself improved 0.9 per cent compared to 2016, although the number of shoppers for that full week – Sunday November 19 to Saturday November 25 – were dropped 4.8 per cent year-on-year.
Footfall traffic varied significantly in different regions of the UK, with store footfall worst hit in London and the South East, where it fell by 10.5 per cent year-on-year as consumers took to the internet thanks to extended promotional activity around Black Friday.
In contrast, for the first time since August the Midlands improved 1.8 per cent year-on-year.
“Black Friday and the promise of promotions and discounts put many people off shopping in October,” Ipsos retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison said.
“When the discounting came, while footfall did improve on last year, many of the price cuts were generally shallower and the offers narrower, with retailers intent on preserving demand as we move into holiday season.
“Retailers across the UK will take a lot of satisfaction from the marginal 0.9 per cent increase in footfall on Black Friday, and the accompanying growth in online activity.”
It comes after a slow October, when footfall decreased to its lowest rate since the Brexit referendum last year, according to closely-watched data from Springboard and the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Springboard/BRC said footfall fell two per cent in October, coming well below the three-month average decline of 1.4 per cent and nudging the post-Brexit referendum 2.3 per cent slump.
Looking ahead, Ipsos predicts non-food store footfall in the UK will fall 2.1 per cent against December 2016.
Denison added that the recent interest rates rise from the Bank of England came at a bad time, just as retailers “enter the ‘Golden Quarter’ of the year”.
“But I suspect that this had no immediate impact on everyday shopping,” he said.
“Heading into Christmas, retailers simply cannot afford shoppers to burn the candle at both ends, foreshortening both Christmas and October spending.
“This year it’s likely we will see a ‘careful as you go’ Christmas, with retailers closely managing discounting and promotions against demand, and shoppers vigilant in making their shrunken disposable income go further.”
Ipsos’ Retail Traffic Index derives from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
Springboard and BRC are set to release their November footfall figures in the coming days.