A bad start to the month followed by heavy snowfall has dragged down the footfall figures for one of the most important trading periods of the retail calendar.
According to the latest monthly Retail Traffic Index (RTI) compiled by consultancy firm Ipsos Retail Performance, overall UK footfall plummeted by 9.6 per cent last month compared to the same time in 2016.
However, it was still the busiest shopping month of the year, with last month’s footfall 24.1 per cent higher compared to November, although this is lower in comparison to the five year average of 31.2 per cent.
On a week-on-week basis, the first week of December saw footfall decline for the first time since Ipsos began the RTI.
Footfall continued to be subdued each week afterwards, with heavy snowfall keeping people off the high street and adding further misery onto retailers.
To top it off, Boxing Day footfall was 5.1 per cent quieter than 2016.
However, numbers improved dramatically in the days after, with December 28 delivering the busiest shopping day of the year – but it was still 8.6 per cent lower year-in-year.
“In the previous few years, shopping habits in the build-up to Christmas have structurally changed,” Ipsos retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison said.
“Discounting and promotional activity around Black Friday now stretch over a two-week period, pulling forward shopping into November that would normally be done in the run-up to Christmas and the winter sales immediately following.
“Online retailing has also fundamentally altered the way retailers now need to approach Christmas shopping.
“The promise of greater convenience meant that online shopping accounted for 24 per cent of all non-food transactions in December 2016, and will have exceeded one-in-five transactions this year.”
The news comes after UK retail sales figures this week from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed that it had slowed down to 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis in the five weeks ending December 30, compared to the same in 2016 when they had increased one per cent.
In addition, the long-running GfK Consumer Confidence Index showed that overall UK consumer confidence dropped a score of -13 in December – a significant year-on-year drop from the -7 recorded in December 2016 and the lowest score for 2017.
The closely-watched Footfall and Vacancies Monitor for December from the BRC and Springboard are expected to be revealed in the coming days.