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High streets bear brunt of footfall declines

High streets failed to tempt shoppers in this Christmas, with footfall down 3.7% in December with severe weather deterring last minute bargain hunters.

Footfall across all retail destinations was 2.4% lower than 2012, following the 2.9% drop in November, but high streets were the worst hit.  Wales, the South West and Northern Ireland saw the biggest drops, down 3.8%, 3.4% and 8.7% respectively.

On a three month basis, footfall to high streets has now fallen 3.8%, the worst drop since August 2012 when the Olympics affected numbers. Out of town locations have seen footfall drop 1.2% while shopping centres fell 1.8% over that period.

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The drop in footfall was double that of December 2012 but, unlike last year, high streets bore the brunt with an annual decline of more than double that in shopping centres.”

She added: “The combination of the emphasis by retailers to drive online sales and the discounting introduced by retailers early on in the month meant that shoppers delayed visits to retail destinations until as late as possible which adversely affected footfall early on in the month.  And then, over the last weekend before Christmas, severe weather suppressed what retailers hoped would be the last burst of peak trading activity so that footfall did not have an opportunity to recover before the holiday period.’’

Extreme weather saw several parts of the UK hit by floods, knocking power out for many homes over Christmas and disrupting what was expected to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said the figures showed how multichannel retail was “changing the face of shopping, particularly at Christmas”.

“Rather than making multiple trips to the shops over the festive period, many of us planned ahead for our gift-buying and took advantage of retailers’ investment in services like click and collect so that they could cover off their festive spending at their convenience,” she explained.

 “The timing of Christmas was also a major factor behind peaks and troughs in shopper numbers during December – with the big day falling on a Wednesday many people held off on finalising their festive spending in the last few days.” 

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