BRC: footfall declines as sales move online in December

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Footfall in December was 2.2% down on a year ago, marginally lower than the 2.1% decline in November, underperforming the three-month average rate of -1.6%, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard.

Footfall in retail park locations increased 2.1% year-on-year. This is slightly above November’s 2.0% rise. High Streets and Shopping Centres saw a further decline in footfall, falling to 4.0% and 2.0% respectively. This was High Streets’ sharpest decline since November 2014.

The only region or nation to report a rise in footfall was Scotland, albeit marginally at 0.2%.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson BRC_MasterLogo_Purple_CMYK_awcommented: “Shopper footfall shrivelled once again last month and at a faster rate than compared to the three-month average. December was the ninth consecutive month in which shopper footfall has declined, with high streets in particular but also shopping malls continuing to fare poorly. In contrast retail parks once again witnessed footfall growth.

“Retailers are having to revamp their businesses in order to respond to the profound changes in the way we are all shopping.

“This trading environment should also be considered with the impact of the industry’s regulatory burden. BRC analysis shows that the combined cost of policy announcements since the General Election adds up to approximately £14 billion over the next five years. The industry will continue to make the case to government, which has extended its review of business rates to early 2016, to properly look at rebalancing this tax away from property intensive industries in order to ensure that the introduction of the living wage does not have unintended consequences on our local communities and jobs.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The surge in online spending in December clearly impacted heavily on traditional urban retail destinations. The catalyst was the plethora of online discounts on Black Friday which then continued throughout December; resulting in a drop of 4% in high street footfall which was the most severe since November 2014, and far deeper than the drop of 1.8% in December 2014. Even shopping centres – with their concentration of multiple retailers usually considered to be a safe and reliable option for Christmas shopping – fell victim, with footfall dropping by 2%, a greater decline than the modest 0.1% fall in December 2014.

“Much has been mentioned of the ongoing success of retail parks over the last two years in growing their shopper base and – while the volumes of footfall in these destinations remain far lower than in either high streets or shopping centres – in concert with online, they clearly represent an increasingly strong draw for shoppers. While urban destinations undoubtedly have long term immovable constraints in terms of their built fabric, retailers trading in these locations need to harness the opportunities created by the new shopping reality – a demand for greater convenience, choice and customer service – and deliver offers and environments that excite and entertain shoppers, so incentivising them to abandon the sofa and tablet for the store.”

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