According to Ipsos Retail Performance tracking, in the run up to Christmas, retailers on the UK high-street experienced the lowest level of footfall in the month of December since tracking footfall commenced, 18 years ago in 1998.
Footfall was recorded as -9.3% lower than December 2015, producing the most expansive year-on-year gap in a month since March 2006. The uplift on November’s footfall was +30.8%, marginally down on the five-year average of +31.2%, suggesting 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.
Their Retail Traffic Index is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence, commented on the December figures: “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.”
Around the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland delivered the best year-on-year performance in December, with a deficit in footfall of -3.2%, whilst the South West of England and Wales, and the Midlands posted the worst results, with a drop of -14.4% and -12.5% respectively.
The final quarter of 2016 delivered a disappointing end to the year, with store traffic -6.6% lower than in Q4 2015.