UK footfall slumps on Panic Saturday as online retailing wins over high street

Kasmira Jefford
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Not all shopping centres fared worse than last year. Westfield forecasts 300,000 people shopped at its London centres on Saturday (Source: Westfield )

Footfall slumped across high streets and shopping centres this weekend as consumers took advantage of retailers offering even later deadlines for Christmas deliveries to shop online rather than venturing out in stores.

The traditional stampede of customers on so-called Panic Saturday failed to materialise to the same extent as last year, with footfall down by 4.5 per cent, according to data from retail analysts Springboard.

Shopping centres fared the worst, with traffic down 8.9 per cent year-on-year, followed by a 5.5 per cent decline across UK high streets. However this was an improvement on the previous Saturday, up 0.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

Retail parks were the best performers, with footfall increasing by 3.3 per cent on the year and by seven per cent on the previous week.

“Online shopping will have benefitted retail parks as shoppers will visit them to click and collect, but also the free parking and the increased presence of family friendly restaurants and leisure facilities in retail parks will have supported activity,” Springboard said.

Separate research from rival retail intelligence firm FootFall said Amazon’s Prime same day delivery service and other brands, such as Not On The High Street, promising to fulfil gift orders made by midday on the 23 December had contributed to the shift away from the high street this year.

The company similarly reported a 4.3 per cent decline in footfall on Saturday. However it predicts a rebound this week similar to 2009, when Christmas also fell on a Friday, as stores become inundated with last- minute shoppers.

Tomorrow, 22 December, is expected to be the busiest day for shops, with footfall up 54 per cent on the daily average and 2.2 per cent year-on-year.

Steve Richardson, UK regional director at FootFall, said: “As Christmas falls on a Friday, there have only been three Mondays in December 2015, whereas the past three years (2012 – 2014) had four Mondays, making the shift to in-store shopping even more marked."

“What’s more, as consumers might choose to take off a few days ahead of Christmas, this could also mean we see more shopper traffic on the High Street and in shopping centres, as consumers feel they aren’t reliant on online shopping alone.”

Overall, consumers are expected to splash out around £5.9bn on gifts and food in the last four days before Christmas starting Saturday 19 December, with four in five pounds expected to be spent in stores, according to MasterCard.

Stores are still taking the lion's share of spending, despite online accounting for most of the sales growth on last year, the payments firm said.

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