High Street

Footfall drops for 13th consecutive month in December

Footfall declined for the 13th consecutive month in December, despite heavy discounting by retailers during the festive period.

Overall footfall declined by 2.6% in the month, although this is a lesser decline compared to the previous year when it fell sharply by 3.5%.  

High street footfall declined by 2.1%, marking five consecutive months of weakening for this shopping location. Retail parks also saw a decline, December footfall was 2.1% lower than last year and below November’s rate of 1.4%.

Shopping centres experienced the steepest decline dropping by 3.9% when compared to the previous year, broadly in line with both November’s 2018 and December’s 2017 rates of -3.8%. This marks the 21st consecutive month of decline.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The -2.6% decline in footfall in December 2018 the ninth in ten years, and the seventh consecutive year of decline – is undeniably strong evidence that retailers can no longer rely on Christmas trading to redeem revenue lost earlier in the year.

“Indeed, over the past seven years the shift in footfall away from December has been so significant that the gap between both December and July and between December and November in terms of footfall volumes has halved over the past seven years.

She added: “Following drops in footfall of -2% in October and -3.2% in November in 2018, unless the dynamics underpinning consumer demand were going to rapidly shift, it was always going to be unrealistic to expect footfall to recover. It was only the fact the third week of December in 2017 was so adversely impacted by snow that the same week this year delivered only a modest drop in footfall of -0.1%. If footfall had remained at the level recorded in the first two weeks of the month (5.5% and 4.5% lower than in 2017), then the overall result for the month would have been a drop of more than 4%.

“If nothing else is learnt from December 2018, it is that discounting does not stimulate customer activity, and is severely eroding the strength of Christmas as a major trading period. Ignoring the warning signs and continuing to bring sales forward undermines profitability and, ultimately, longer term innovation in retailing.”

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