With just one week left until the tills go quiet on Christmas Day, the latest news on UK retail footfall from Ipsos Retail Performance is hopeful for the retail sector. The Retail Traffic Index shows that stores are busier than expected. Though the build-up was slow in the first fortnight of the campaign with non-food store footfall rising week-on-week by +0.2% and +0.8% respectively, last week (w/c 9th December) has seen the number of shoppers climb by +6.2% on the previous week and by +3.1% against the same week of 2017.
“Store footfall is running only -1% behind last year which is +1.6% better than we had forecast at this point in the month,” comments Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “This run-in week is the clincher though, when footfall needs to grow by over 20% on last week’s. If that’s achieved, then retailers stand every chance of seeing better than expected in-store trading this Christmastide.”
It is not a consistent pattern across the country however. Footfall in Scotland & Northern Ireland is currently up +0.7% on this time last year and in Northern England it is flatlining. Elsewhere the picture is less buoyant, with stores in South West England & Wales struggling the most, where footfall is down -4.3% on last year. The sectors seeing the strongest gain on last year include the clothing and footwear sector together with homeware and DIY. Stores located on retail parks are also particularly busy.
“As ever, it is going to be a nerve jangling last few days,” continues Denison. “Aside from Saturday, Tuesday is the worst possible day on which Christmas can fall. Curtailed trading hours on Sunday, followed by slow afternoon trading on Christmas Eve, means that much will depend on the rest of this week, particularly ‘Super Saturday’.”
Though footfall is in reasonable shape, Deloitte suggests that it is coming at a price. In its latest survey, the professional services company has found that 43.6% of products studied are being discounted currently, and predicted to rise to a record 48%.
“Those that opt to go early into deep and wide discounting indicates one of two things,” explains Denison. “Either they have excessive stock and may have bought poorly or they are desperate to generate sufficient cash in time for the next rental payments. We know that there will be more casualties in January and the level of discounting may be a good indicator of which retailers are facing severe difficulties.”
Ipsos Retail Performance, the global retail and footfall consultant, compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), from the number of shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.