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Weak November footfall figures point to challenging Christmas countdown

Figures showing a drop in footfall on Britain’s high streets in November have fuelled speculation that retailers could slash prices even further over the next few days.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which in conjunction with Springboard monitors shopper numbers throughout the UK, today announced an overall weaker footfall level last month across all sectors compared to last year, with the high street hit the hardest.

UK-wide footfall in November was 2.9% lower than 2012’s figure, with shopping centres showing the most resilience, declining by only 1%, followed by out-of-town locations which saw a 2.1% drop in shopper numbers year-on-year.

Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The 2.9% drop in footfall in November is disappointing and suggests that Christmas trading could be challenging if December 2012 is anything to go by when a 0.4% increase in November 2012 preceded a drop in footfall of 1.2 %. And the last time footfall dropped by a similar magnitude in the build up to Christmas it was then followed by a decline in footfall of 8.8% in December due to major snowfall”.

In London’s West End, footfall figures released by the New West End Company showed the overall poor performance had been repeated. According to the figures, while footfall is gathering pace in the West End, with an increase of 0.9% last week compared to the previous seven days, compared with the same week last year footfall was down by 4.1%.

The news will come as a blow to those hoping for more moderate pre-Christmas discounting than has been seen in previous years, particularly independent fashion stores, which struggle to compete.

With a week to go to Christmas, many retailers are expected to succumb to pressure to slash prices ahead of another potentially challenging festive period.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “While some areas saw an improvement in footfall compared against the previous month, numbers were negative across the board, strengthening the sense that many of us were holding off on major shopping trips until December ushered in the final countdown to Christmas”.

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