In the run up to Christmas, retailers on the UK high street experienced the lowest level of footfall in the month of December since Ipsos Retail Performance started tracking footfall 18 years ago.
Footfall was recorded as -9.3% lower than December 2015, producing the most expansive year-on-year gap in a month since March 2006. The uplift on November’s footfall was +30.8%, marginally down on the five-year average of +31.2%, suggesting that the disruption of Black Friday and the consumer shift towards online shopping is working against the high street in both of the key months leading up to Christmas.
Our Retail Traffic Index is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
The third week of December, leading up to Christmas Day and including ‘Super Saturday’ on Christmas Eve, produced the busiest shopping week of the year, however it was still -1.7% quieter than the same week in 2015, which had one day less of trading.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence, commented on the December figures:
“We had projected better performance in the run up to Christmas, as the -6.4% year-on-year decline in November had been thought to be a consequence of Black Friday disrupting consumers traditional shopping habits. However, the -9.3% deficit in December in fact points towards a more substantial structural shift that favours online shopping and a softening in overall consumer demand.
“The week-on-week acceleration in footfall hit the forecasted levels through the month, however the poor end to November and start to December meant that it built from a far lower base. Nevertheless, many of the retailers I spoke to in the weeks leading up to Christmas said shoppers had been re-enthused about the in-store experience, taking in the atmosphere and great service, with the reduced footfall providing the time and space to enjoy it.”
Around the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland delivered the best year-on-year performance in December, with a deficit in footfall of -3.2%, whilst the South West of England and Wales, and the Midlands posted the worst results, with a drop of -14.4% and -12.5% respectively.
The final quarter of 2016 delivered a disappointing end to the year, with store traffic -6.6% lower than in Quarter 4 2015.
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