Footfall across the UK declined by a “modest” 0.7% in December compared to 2.4% drop the previous year.
This compares to an average monthly fall of 1.3% in 2014. It was also an improvement on the 2.4% fall in November, according to figures from Springboard and the British Retail Consortium, who pointed out that, despite the frenzy whipped up on Black Friday on November 28, December remained the strongest month for footfall over Christmas.
Figures for the wider 2014 Christmas trading period reveal footfall was down 1.3% year on year between October and December, as fewer shoppers made their way to the high street and shopping centres.
Of the three retail locations examined, the high street saw the biggest fall in December, down 1.8%. However, this was half the decline recorded in the same period the year before.
In shopping centres footfall fell by 0.1% year on year; the lowest decline since January 2014 and an improvement on the 1.5% decline recorded in 2013.
Out-of-town locations reported the only rise in footfall this December, up 1.3% on last year. Retail parks experienced growth every month in 2014.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “A decline of 1.8% in the number of high street shoppers might not at first glance look like great news for retailers, but it’s heartening to see the pace of decline in high street footfall slowing so dramatically from November to December. This is undoubtedly a result of the continuing changes in the way we all prefer to shop.
“It’s worth noting that fewer shoppers doesn’t necessarily equal poorer sales – in fact, we know that sales have been strong across the Christmas period. This tells us that retailers are getting to grips with the way people’s shopping habits are changing and using methods like click-and-collect to drive internet traffic toward physical stores while, at the same time, targeting discounts to encourage higher sales.”
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, added: ‘’Footfall across the UK in December belied the prevailing furore over the impact on bricks and mortar stores of both Black Friday and the move to online shopping, with just a modest drop of 0.7% from December 2013.”
All regions and countries with the exception of South East and East of England (3.4% and 2.2% respectively), Scotland (1.6%) and Northern Ireland (1.4%) reported declining footfall.