Springboard has reported on a difficult ending to a trading year in retail with total footfall down -2.5% for the five weeks from 24 November to 28 December 2019.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday brought Christmas trading forward, leading to a noticeable decline in footfall over the two weeks leading up to Christmas, said researchers.
The footfall result for December reflects the caution and spending restraint of consumers which typifies low consumer confidence that has been ongoing for the last three years, Springboard added.
High Street footfall declined by -3.5%, following from the decrease of -2.1% in November last year. Retail Park footfall decreased by -0.5%, following from December 2018 when footfall decreased by -2.1% and Shopping Centre footfall declined by -2.1%, following December 2018’s decline of -3.9%.
“The -2.5% drop in footfall across UK retail destinations during December was not a surprise as footfall has declined in December in all but one year since 2009,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director.
“The challenge for destinations and stores was not only that this was the eighth consecutive year that footfall has decreased in this key trading month, but that it was also at the upper end of the scale in terms of the magnitude of decline. All of this was despite the occurrence of Black Friday during the December trading month which, in conjunction with Cyber Monday, helped to increase footfall in the first two weeks by +0.1%. Essentially this discounting bonanza pulled Christmas trading forward, demonstrated by a drop in footfall of -6.1% over the third and fourth weeks of December which was nearly three times as large as the -2.2% drop in the same weeks in 2018.
“The reasons why this occurred are varied, but reflect the caution and spending restraint of consumers which typifies low consumer confidence that has been ongoing for the last three years. Even supermarket spending only rose by +0.2% in December despite food price inflation of +0.9%, with supermarket volume sales dropping by -0.7%; indicating that this restraint also encompassed food and consumables during a month in which food and beverage are key.
“Other influences that will have driven down footfall in stores and destinations during December include the strong shift in consumer demand towards experience/leisure based trips, away from wholly transaction focussed visits. This was evident on Boxing Day when footfall up to 5pm, whilst stores were trading, declined by -10.6%, but post 5pm – when most stores were nearing the end of the trading day – footfall dropped by less than half this at -5.1%, with restaurants and bars benefiting.
“Today’s rather circumspect consumer was clearly demonstrating considered restraint towards their lifestyle and spend decisions over the Christmas period. The growing climate change movement and increased consumer concerns around waste and sustainability is likely to have further limited trips to destinations to make non-essential purchases, thereby diluting footfall even further.’”