Footfall fell for 13th consecutive month in December, Springboard figures reveal

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Footfall in December fell by 2.6 per cent, a lesser decline compared to the previous year when it fell sharply by 3.5 per cent. This is the thirteenth month of consecutive decline, according to the latest BRC-Springboard monitor.

High Street footfall declined by 2.1 per cent, marking five consecutive months of weakening for this shopping location.

Retail Parks had a similar fate, December footfall being 2.1 per cent lower than last year and below November’s rate of 1.4 per cent.

Shopping Centre footfall declined by 3.9 per cent, broadly in line with both November’s 2018 and December’s 2017 rates of -3.8 per cent. This location reached now 21 consecutive months of declines.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The -2.6% decline in footfall in December 2018 the ninth in 10 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.

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.”

Helen Dickinson chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The December results conclude a difficult year for retailers, with footfall dropping by 2.6% over the year. This continued drop, now onto its thirteenth month, continues to put pressure on bricks-and-mortar stores up and down the country. It comes at a time when retail is in the midst of a transformation, investing in technology and the online offer, as well as offering more experiences in physical shops. This is evolving many high streets into a destination for wider services, as well as shopping.

“However, many well-known brands have disappeared from our high streets, and without government intervention there will be more to come. Government should take action by reforming the broken business rates system and ensuring consumers and retailers retain tariff free, frictionless trade with the EU after March 29.”