AHEAD OF A ‘CAREFUL AS YOU GO’ CHRISTMAS
UK retail footfall saw a recovery in November, following a poor October. Average weekly footfall grew by +4.5% on the previous month, and the footfall gap against the same month in 2016 narrowed to -4.7%.
Our Retail Traffic Index (RTI) is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
The RTI reported that in-store traffic on Black Friday itself improved +0.9% on 2016, although the number of shoppers for the full week (Sunday 19th – Saturday 25th) were down by -4.8% compared to last year.
Footfall traffic varied significantly in different regions of the UK, with store footfall worst hit in London and The South East, where it fell by -10.5% year-on-year, as consumers were driven on-line by extended promotional activity around Black Friday. In contrast, for the first time since August, a region saw a rise in year-on-year footfall, with the Midlands improving +1.8%.
“Black Friday and the promise of promotions and discounts put many people off shopping in October,” commented Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.
“When the discounting came, while footfall did improve on last year, many of the price cuts were generally shallower and the offers narrower, with retailers intent on preserving demand as we move into holiday season. Retailers across the UK will take a lot of satisfaction from the marginal +0.9% increase in footfall on Black Friday, and the accompanying growth in on-line activity.
Ipsos Retail Performance forecast that heading into the all-important month of December, non-food store footfall in the UK would fall by -2.1% against December 2016. To remain on course for this to be achieved, footfall would need to rise by +2.0% over the coming week.
Dr Tim Denison continued:
“It was a bad time for the interest rate rise, just as retailers enter the ‘Golden Quarter’ of the year, but I suspect that this had no immediate impact on everyday shopping.
“Heading into Christmas, retailers simply cannot afford shoppers to burn the candle at both ends, foreshortening both Christmas and October spending. This year it’s likely we will see a ‘careful as you go’ Christmas, with retailers closely managing discounting and promotions against demand, and shoppers vigilant in making their shrunken disposable income go further.”