Black Friday hurt UK store footfall, structural shift is happening - report
UK retail footfall last month hit its lowest December level since Ipsos Retail Performance started the Retail Traffic Index (RTI) in 1998, the specialist tracker said Thursday.
The company, which measures footfall to over 4,000 non-food locations, said visitor traffic to stores in December was down 9.3% compared to 2015, the widest year-on-year gap in a month since 2006.
But the final week leading up to Christmas Day was the busiest of the month, and of the year. Footfall was up 14.1% compared to the previous week and up 0.8% compared to the first week of the winter clearance sales.
Despite the overall December drop, the uplift on November’s footfall was 30.8%, although this was lower than expected and was marginally down on the five-year average of a 31.2% rise. This suggested 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.
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, said: “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.”
He said demand among consumers had been expected to stay resilient as we head into 2017. But if the weakening of store footfall over November and December is symptomatic of a wider lethargy among UK shoppers, retailers could face a much stiffer challenge over the coming months. “We were already anticipating that cost and margin would cause problems this year, so if demand crumbles away then all three key factors of retail health will be working against the retailers in 2017,” he said.
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