Footfall dwindles for 13th straight month in December

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December footfall
// Overall UK retail footfall down 2.6%
// 13th consecutive month of overall decline
// 2.1% decline in high street footfall, 2.1% decline in retail parks & 3.6% drop in shopping centres
// Decline is “undeniably strong evidence that retailers can no longer rely on Christmas trading”

Footfall numbers declined for the 13th month in a row in December, despite retailers offering big discounts in the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of Christmas.

The latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor suggests that discounting “is severely eroding the strength of Christmas as a major trading period” and retailers can no longer rely on the festive season to make up for revenue lost earlier in the year.

Overall footfall in December fell by 2.6 per cent, a lesser decline compared to the previous year when it fell sharply by 3.5 per cent.

High street footfall declined by 2.1 per cent, marking five consecutive months of weakening for this shopping location.

Retail parks had a similar fate, with December footfall being 2.1 per cent lower than last year and below November’s rate of 1.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, shopping centre footfall declined by 3.9 per cent, broadly in line with both November’s 2018 and December’s 2017 declines of 3.8 per cent.

Additionally, shopping centres have now achieved 21 consecutive months of footfall decline.

The BRC and Springboard said the new figures meant retailers should not ignore the warning signs of sales bonanzas failing to stimulate customer activity.

“The 2.6 per cent decline in footfall in December 2018 – the ninth in 10 years, and the seventh consecutive year of decline – is undeniably strong evidence that retailers can no longer rely on Christmas trading to redeem revenue lost earlier in the year,” Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said.

“Indeed, over the past seven years the shift in footfall away from December has been so significant that the gap between both December and July and between December and November in terms of footfall volumes has halved over the past seven years.”

She added: “If nothing else is learnt from December 2018, it is that discounting does not stimulate customer activity, and is severely eroding the strength of Christmas as a major trading period.

“Ignoring the warning signs and continuing to bring sales forward undermines profitability and, ultimately, longer-term innovation in retailing.”

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the continued drop in footfall places pressure on bricks-and-mortar stores around the UK, and that government intervention was needed.

“It comes at a time when retail is in the midst of a transformation, investing in technology and the online offer, as well as offering more experiences in physical shops,” she said.

“This is evolving many high streets into a destination for wider services, as well as shopping.”

“However, many well-known brands have disappeared from our high streets, and without government intervention there will be more to come.

“Government should take action by reforming the broken business rates system and ensuring consumers and retailers retain tariff free, frictionless trade with the EU after March 29.”

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