December saw the highest decline in footfall for four years in “a significant weakening in performance” as a fall in discretionary spend and increasing shift to online shopping takes it toll on the high street.
According to the BRC–Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, footfall declined 3.5 per cent from November 26 to December 30, marking the sharpest decline since March 2013.
This extended across all regions with the South West being hit the hardest with a 5.2 per cent decline, while Scotland and Greater London also saw footfall rates drop 3.7 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively.
After a 12-month run of positive growth, the East also saw a decline of 2.6 per cent, coming well below both the three-month average of -1.9 per cent and the 12-month average of -0.7 per cent.
“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,” Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said.
“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.
BRC’s chief executive Helen Dickinson added: “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.”