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UK Xmas and New Year footfall drops, Boxing Day down, but West End stays positive

Published
Jan 3, 2020
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Whichever way you look at it, the pre-Christmas and immediate-post-Christmas shopping period was a disappointment, according to the deluge of footfall figures that have come out in recent days. And it seems that Black Friday might have been partly to blame as the unexpected surge around that shopping event looks to have suppressed shopper sentiment in December.


Festival Place was busy but many malls weren't last month



While some of the figures for footfall coming out of Ipsos Retail, ShopperTrak and Springboard might seem to contradict each other, that’s down to the different metrics each tracking specialist uses. But those contradictions don’t change the end result — Britons failed to up the pace of their shopping after Black Friday, and they didn’t flock to stores for a last-minute Christmas rush or for the post-Christmas clearance sales.

Ipsos Retail Performance said Friday that  footfall dropped 7.2% in December as a whole year-on-year, slightly worse than its -6.1% forecast. London/South East was the only region to register an increase, rising 0.8%.

And Springboard said that post-Christmas footfall dropped by 4% year-on-year up to January 1. Despite hopes for a bounce-back after weak pre-Christmas visitor traffic, footfall declined on all but one day between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. That one day was December 30, which saw an 11.1% rise, but this is likely to be from the day falling on a Monday versus a Sunday in 2018, allowing longer trading hours for shoppers to make the most of the post-Christmas discounts”. 

December 27 performed better than Boxing Day itself with a drop of just 2.3% versus 8.6% on Boxing Day, further evidence of December 26’s declining importance overall

That was also highlighted by ShopperTrak, whose figures showed Boxing Day footfall down a massive 11.8% year-on-year. Its Global General Manager Nick Pompa said the Boxing Day disappointment could also have been down to the day falling on a Thursday this year with shoppers potentially more inclined to venture out on December 27 and 28. 

That said, the Fashion Network team reported relatively light visitor traffic in several major shopping malls on the Saturday after Christmas.

Springboard also said that retail parks fell the least on Boxing Day (down 4.2%) while shopping centres fell 7.4% and high streets plunged 11.3%.

As we’ve already seen, Ipsos Retail Performance recorded an overall December decline in its Retail Traffic Index and it said that bargain hunters hitting UK stores on Boxing Day fell 13.4%. 

It also said non-food stores were 21.5% quieter on December 26 than on Super Saturday (the final Saturday before Christmas Day) and were even down 6.8% compared to the previous Thursday.

Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance said the rate of decline was steep, “bringing into question the significance of the day in the retail calendar. There are structural factors at play here. The November campaigns around Black Friday drew shoppers into seeking out bargains well ahead of the traditional Boxing Day launches.”

PRE-CHRISTMAS PERFORMANCE

While there’s plenty of debate over just why Boxing Day’s appeal has faded for shoppers, it seems that there’s uncertainty around the days before Christmas too. It also seems that the day on which Christmas falls has a big impact and the later in the week it happens, the less likely the final Saturday is to be a blockbuster day.

Super Saturday had been predicted to be the big shopping day but proved a disappointment. Ipsos Retail Performance said Super Saturday on December 21 “was not the saviour that some had expected”. Footfall that day was up by 5.5% on the previous week, but down 6.2% on the corresponding Saturday of 2018.

Much of the activity actually shifted from the Saturday to the following Monday, which also seemed to benefit from people not wanting to shop on Christmas Eve.

Springboard said Christmas Eve footfall up to noon was down almost 8% across the UK, but on December 23, it had risen 11.4% with shopping centres up an impressive 17.4% as already-on-holiday consumers had clearly decided that this would be their final pre-Christmas shopping day.

Ipsos Retail Performance also said that in the last full week before Christmas (from December 15), the number of trips to non-food stores rose by 13.7% on the week before, but fell by 14.2% on 2018.

So was there any good news? Well, London’s West End did turn in a better performance than other parts of the country overall. West End footfall increased by 1% year-on-year for the four weeks leading to Boxing Day. And footfall in the area from December 26 to January 1 rose too, albeit only by a tiny 0.2%. Trade body The New West End Company said that in the seven days post-Christmas, more than 5.2 million shoppers visited the West End, with a strong contingent of shoppers from the Middle East, China and USA.

That said, NWEC also gave more evidence of Boxing Day’s decline — its footfall dropped 6.4% in the West End and NWEC described the day as only “relatively resilient”, helped by the large number of international tourists there.

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