BRC/Springboard: changing shopping habits continue to drive down footfall

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Footfall in November was 2.4% down on a year ago, down on the 0.8% fall in October and below the three-month average of a 1.4% decline, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed.

‘Out-of-Town’ reported the only rise, 0.8% higher than a year ago and has experienced positive footfall growth for every month to date in 2014. Footfall in shopping centres was 2.1% down on the previous year for November.

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BRC director general Helen Dickinson (pictured) said: “These figures suggest that people are buying more non-food items per shopping trip; likely due to them having researched their potential purchases online or having chosen to ‘click-and-collect’. Shopper numbers were down 4.0% on High Streets across the UK, continuing the trend that has seen footfall declining in all but one month in 2014. The only shopping destinations seeing positive growth were out-of-town and even then shopper numbers increased by less than one per cent.

“Despite these figures, we know that retail sales for the same period remain strong – and this is not due solely to the increasing popularity of online shopping. Whereas once multiple shopping trips for a few items and leisurely browsing were the norm, now increasingly savvy shoppers are streamlining their visits to stores when making non-food purchases. The most successful shopping destinations are ensuring that they have a range of other experiences and activities on offer to drive up footfall.”

Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle added: “Footfall across the UK definitely took a turn for the worse in November, with the largest drop since February of this year. However, the good news is that the fall is still lower than the 2.9% fall in November 2013.

“The results clearly indicate that the structural shift in consumer activity brought about by the internet is ongoing, and that it is largely out of town locations that are continuing to capitalise on this change. However, it needs to be recognised that retail parks started from a much lower base than that for either high streets or shopping centres, and their increasing attractiveness to shoppers is compounded by the benefit of free car parking.

“It is particularly disappointing for high streets and shopping centres that the significant price promotions offered over the Black Friday weekend were not sufficient to turn the tide over the month. Indeed, it suggests that if retailers are to encourage shoppers back into bricks and mortar stores then there needs to be a greater focus on the enhancement of the customer experience, rather than a knee jerk reaction towards discounting which only undermines margins and long term profitability.”

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