October saw a 7.4% drop in UK store visits, the biggest year-on-year drop since July, while average weekly footfall was down 2.9% compared with September.
According to Ipsos Retail Performance’s latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) the areas with the highest decline in store visits were south west England and Wales, followed by the Midlands, which saw decreases of 11.3% and 7.9% respectively.
Additionally, apart from Scotland and Northern Ireland, where footfall increased by 1.7% between September and October, stores in every region of the country saw a month-on-month drop of between 1.1% and 1.9%.
The group said that even the “much-anticipated Black Friday sale” is not expected to “reverse retailers’ fortunes”, despite the UK being one of the few countries to see a year-on-year gain in footfall (0.95%) in 2017. Forecasts predict waning consumer confidence, a progressive switch to online deals and the event “reaching maturity” to contribute to a 3.4% year-on-year decline in footfall.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos, said the upcoming Christmas trading period was the “most important of the last decade”, and retailers would have to “work even harder to attract customers”.
He added: “As we enter the most important peak season in a decade, retailers will need to step up their game to get shoppers into their stores. The winners will be those that remind us that the festive season is a time to celebrate, justifying a case to spend, rather than to tempt them with bargain basement promotions. It has been a particularly challenging environment in retailing for a couple of years now, and 2019 looks little different.”
“October was once the most placid month of the year in footfall terms, with very little movement year-in, year-out. The emergence of Black Friday has disrupted that, putting a spoke not only in December’s footfall, but in October’s too.”
The RTI is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.