Record Black Friday gears retailers up for busier Christmas, claims Ipsos Retail Performance

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Record shopper numbers boosted the UK non-food retail market in November, with Black Friday posting a 23% increase in footfall on last year.

The global retail and footfall consultant, Ipsos Retail Performance, compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

In November the RTI increased 6.5% on the previous month and fell 0.6% on 2013. The comparison with last year is set to improve in the run up to Christmas, with Ipsos Retail Performance projecting a year-on-year rise in footfall of 0.6% in December.

November started quietly, with footfall levels falling heavily over the first two weeks of the month following a busy October half term. The pace picked up in week three and the month finished strongly with footfall up 2.5% for the final week. This culminated in an impressive Black Friday, when record numbers of shoppers hit the high street, up 23.0% on 2013.

“The start of the month will have got retailers’ nerves jangling, as the additional footfall we saw during October half term didn’t carry on into November,” said Tim Denison, director at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“Swathes of shoppers retrenched over the first two weeks of the month, deciding to instead save money for the widely marketed ‘bargain bonanza’ of Black Friday. This year the majority of retailers decided to participate in the American shopping tradition, providing sufficient momentum to make the day a success.

“Retailers will however need to be careful not to rest on their laurels following such a positive day, as the question that is left hanging is how much of the success will dent sales in the run up to Christmas.”

Ipsos Retail Performance is projecting a year-on-year rise in footfall of 0.6% in December, with a slower rate of growth over the first fortnight of the month compared to last year. The expected uplift comes courtesy of record employment levels and falling food and petrol prices.

Denison said: “Retailers need to learn from last year, and they will have to work hard to translate the expected increase in footfall into stronger sales.

“Our forecast predicts that the rate of footfall growth will be slower than last year over the first couple of weeks, and it won’t be until Christmas week itself that footfall levels for the month start to exceed those of last year. Retailers therefore need to avoid discounting too early and heavily if they are to have a successful campaign.”

Ipsos Retail Performance’s first benchmark of how the Christmas campaign is shaping up will come at the start of next week. For the December forecast to be on track, footfall for the period 30th November to 13th December needs to be running at 0.6% below the same period of last year.

The next RTI update will be released by Ipsos Retail Performance on 16 December.

Footfall change: November 2014 vs November 2013 

Scotland & Northern Ireland +2.0%
North of England +5.0%
The Midlands -4.0%
South West England & Wales +1.7%
South East England & London -3.8%

Footfall change: November 2014 vs October 2014
Scotland & Northern Ireland +11.0%
North of England +11.3%
The Midlands +4.7%
South West England & Wales +4.1%
South East England & London +3.9%

Footfall forecast: December 2014 vs December 2013

Scotland & Northern Ireland +2.5%
North of England +1.7%
The Midlands -1.0%
South West England & Wales +1.9%
South East England & London -1.0%