UK retail suffers worst November footfall decline in 9 years

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November footfall

Black Friday’s increasing dominance as an online-only sales event has meant UK retail endured the biggest drop in footfall for the month of November since 2009.

According to the latest Footfall and Vacancies Monitor from the BRC and Springboard, overall footfall in November fell by 3.2 per cent, a dramatic swing from the same month last year when it grew by 0.2 per cent.

It also marked the 12th consecutive month of footfall decline.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the November numbers illustrated the “Black Friday effect” of driving more shopping online during the period, which was also becoming longer.

“With one-in-every-three-pounds of non-food purchases made online last month, Black Friday accelerated the movement from in-store to online in the lead up to Christmas,” she said.

“The Black Friday discounting period also began earlier for a large number of retailers negatively impacting footfall across a longer period over the month.”

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle agreed: “The 3.2 per cent drop in footfall in November is indisputable evidence that Black Friday delivers no tangible benefit to bricks and mortar stores.

“Whilst online shopping was inevitably more prevalent than in other months, the vast majority of spending still remained in-store and this is what Black Friday impacts adversely.

“Since 2013, when Black Friday became established as a key trading day, footfall has decreased in every year bar one and the only increase in 2017 was just 0.2 per cent.

“This year, amidst all of the other challenges facing retail, the drop in footfall of 3.2 per cent in November was the largest of any November since Springboard started publishing footfall data in 2009.”

Breaking down the footfall figures between retail location types, the high street suffered a decline of 3.8 per cent while retail park footfall declined 1.4 per cent.

This marked four months of consecutive weakening for the high street, and the largest decline since April when it fell by four per cent.

For retail parks, it was the deepest drop in footfall since April when it fell by 1.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, shopping centre footfall declined by 3.8 per cent, which was a sharper decline relative to the October drop of 3.3 per cent and the decline of 1.3 per cent recorded in November last year.

In terms of regions, Northern Ireland sustained its footfall growth of 2.7 per cent, similar to what was recorded in October, and for the second consecutive month it was the only region to show growth.

The East, South East and East Midlands experienced the deepest declines of 5.6 per cent, 4.8 per cent and 4.7 per cent, respectively.

“It has been a difficult year for many retailers and the outlook remains challenging as Brexit uncertainty grows,” Dickinson said.

“Retailers will be following the upcoming parliamentary vote closely and hoping Parliament can secure a transition period to allow businesses time to adapt to life outside the EU.

“Without this transition, consumers face higher prices and less choice on their shopping trips.”

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