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2019 Retail Footfall In Review

This annual review of 2019 takes a look at store footfall in the UK

In January the footfall figures underlined that Britain’s shoppers are getting on with the certainties of everyday living despite the uncertainties of Brexit, with the lowest annual decline in non-food footfall in three years. It fell -0.8% in the UK compared to the previous year, making it the lowest decline in 36 months, excluding seasonal adjustments. January’s figures marked the lowest fall back from the Christmas period since 2008, with footfall in the first month of 2019 down -26.5% compared to December.

There were some unexpected turns in February as non-food figures dropped. Overall year-on-year numbers were down by -4.6%, while month-on-month figures fell -16.2%. Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance said: “As in all parts of the economy, the future state of retailing will depend on how the Brexit pantomime plays out. For the time being, the nation and its shopkeepers wait on, nervously.”

March saw the first year-on-year rise in footfall in non-food stores for two years. It rose by +1.6% since February. Average weekly footfall was also up on the previous month, by +4.4% and was up across all parts of the UK.

The sunshine had substituted shopping as provider of consumer therapy over Easter. Footfall over the Easter fortnight was -8.5% lower than last year, despite falling three weeks later this year. For the month of April, footfall fell by -2.9% year-on-year, quieter than the forecast of -0.3%. Ordinarily Easter falling at this time would provide an 8% boost to footfall compared to the same April fortnight of the previous year, but this year it registered no growth.

In May there were promising signs of improvement for the high streets. Footfall on May Day bank holiday (6th May) helped contribute to the strong month with the number of shoppers up by +8.4% on levels last year. Retail footfall held up well for the month of May, falling by only -2.3% against the same month last year, stronger than the surprise -2.9% drop in April.

The haemorrhaging of footfall in UK stores appeared to be over in June. Average weekly footfall rose by +9.6% in June over May, but fell by -3.9% compared to the same month of last year. The strongest year-on-year performance in the month came from stores in South West England & Wales where footfall was down by -1.9% on June 2018.

In July, stores had continued to see a footfall revival. When compared to June, retail footfall continued to climb, with average weekly footfall up +3.4%, the same uplift for the month as last year. The advent of hot weather during the first week of school holidays hit footfall hard. Typically the busiest week of the summer, shopper numbers in the last week of July were down by -9.5% on last year.

Retail footfall went on holiday in August – store footfall dropped far more than expected. Numbers fell by -9.8% against August 2018 after a promising recovery in recent months. Expectations that the first week of the month would represent the summer peak failed to materialise. Instead, footfall peaked over w/c 30 June, which was well in advance of the start of the school holidays. This is the first time that this has happened since the RTI was launched in 2000.

Retail footfall plummeted as Autumn began. Footfall in non-food stores fell by 9.9% year-on-year in September. Numbers in London & the South East continued to plummet, with footfall down -15.5% on the same time last year and -13.5% for the quarter.

In October there were no treats, just tricks as footfall continued to slide. Footfall fell by -6.2% compared to the same month of the previous year. The three-month trend in the year-on-year gap continued to widen, from -7.8% in September to -8.6% in October. This is the fifth consecutive month that it has expanded.

Average weekly footfall had rose by +6.8% in November over October. The regional make-up was very mixed, due to a certain degree to the incessant wet weather and flooding in parts of the country. While other areas recorded declines on 2018 above trend, footfall in Northern England and The Midlands suffered year-on-year deficits in November of – 9.2% and -13.3% respectively.

As for December, Black Friday had certainly boosted the start of the month, but took the stuffing out of Christmas footfall later on. The number of shoppers in non-food stores usually rises progressively each week in the month before Christmas Day, but this year that failed to materialise. It fell back by -1.8% during the week commencing 8th December, signaling that the appetite for Christmas shopping was on the wane.

The final full week before Christmas did see something of a recovery, jumping up by +13.7%, but not enough to make up for lost ground. Super Saturday was not so super, registering a -6.2% slide on last year, and both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day disappointed against last year with falls of -9.4% and -13.4% respectively

Ipsos Retail Performance, the global retail insights agency, compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

Have you taken a look at our Retail Traffic Index analytics? This gives you powerful insights into wider retail trends so you can benchmark performance and strengthen your stores strategic planning. To find out more contact us here.

Don’t forget to sign up to our Retail Weathermaps – these are published on a monthly basis and is handy guide to see what is happening at retail parks and the high street both nationally and regionally. The map highlights how footfall has changed in the past month and year and predicts what might be in-store for retailers for the coming month. This is a useful shopper insight tool to gauging long-term trends and comparative performance.