UK footfall stays slow, weekend ahead to see declines says Springboard

More mainly bad news about UK retail came Monday as the Christmas shopping season headed into its final week. New footfall figures showed that store visitor traffic was well down on last year and this weekend won’t offer much relief, even if the five days to Friday should be more buoyant. 


UK footfall was down last week

The figures supported recent anecdotal evidence and the Fashion Network team’s own observations at the weekend.

Specialist footfall tracker Springboard said Monday that last week’s shopper traffic declined by 7.6% year-on-year. This was in part a consequence of the snow that hit much of the country from Sunday and that also will have accounted for some of the 33.2% rise in online transactions as reported by PCA Predict.

Springboard said it’s likely that click & collect trips will have “helped insulate retail parks from as deep a drop in footfall as high streets or shopping centres” with a decline of 3.6% compared to 10.1% in high streets and 5.8% in shopping centres.  

Added to the bad weather, belt-tightening was also an issue with shoppers "holding out on purchasing to take advantage of even deeper discounts pre-Christmas and which is evident in a drop in footfall of 1.2% week-on-week compared with a rise of 5.6% over the same week last year.”

The company is forecasting a 7.8% rise this week on the back of shoppers leaving their purchases until the last minute, but after slow traffic so far, that only adds to the nervousness among UK retailers.

And that nervousness means they’re more likely to be offering deep discounts that may help them clear inventory off their shelves, but will dent margins come trading update time in January.

MALLS AND HIGH STREETS

Fashion Network visited the giant Bluewater mall in Kent on Saturday and said footfall seemed surprisingly slow until until around 11:00 when it got much busier.

But Springboard is actually expecting such malls to be among the  footfall winners this coming weekend. Overall, the researchers feel that many people will use the coming weekend to travel rather than to shop. Yet while they expect total footfall to be down year-on-year on Christmas Eve, they think the traditional ‘man-dash’ of panicked last-mute shoppers should boost malls to a 2% uplift on Sunday.

And what about that predicted almost-8% footfall uplift this week? The company said that in line with the prevailing trend for experience and leisure trips, the biggest increase should be in high streets which “benefit from the greatest diversity in hospitality outlets as consumers seek to combine shopping with visits to coffee shops/restaurants.”


Malls took several hours to get busy on what should have been a bustling Saturday


Springboard’s Retail Insights Director Diane Wehrle said: "Given the prevailing economic conditions which have put pressure on spending, and the fact that the weekend offers consumers an opportunity to travel to their Christmas destinations, we are forecasting that footfall overall will decline on both [Saturday] and Christmas Eve.”

Forecasts for December 23 – the day that generates the largest footfall volumes in the year – and Christmas Eve are for a drop of 2.9%, continuing the trend of lower footfall for the month.

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