Christmas fails to avert footfall slump for retail

THE RECENT upturn for the British economy did not extend to high streets last year, as the full extent of the drop in footfall to bricks-and-mortar retailers during 2013 is revealed.

The full figures for 2013 footfall released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard show that Christmas sales failed to spur growth for the sector in 2013.

All in-store retailer sectors suffered from declining traffic, with a 2.7 per cent drop between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the same period in 2013.

High street stores took the biggest hit, with footfall down 3.8 per cent, while out of town retailers recorded a 1.2 per cent drop in shoppers.

“Unfortunately November’s warning of a challenging Christmas trading period came to pass. Footfall increased over the month from November, but the uplift was just not enough to deliver an increase from December 2012,” commented Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s retail insights director.

Several analyses since Christmas have attributed the majority of growth in festive spending to online consumption, with in-store spending decreasing in real terms.

Earlier this month, Barclaycard suggested that spending had risen by 2.9 per cent in total during the run-up to Christmas, but that 1.7 percentage points of the increase could be attributed to transactions on the internet, meaning growth of only 1.2 per cent for physical premises.

Though the decline in footfall overall was less severe than the drop recorded during 2012, the fact that traffic is still declining even as consumer spending begins to bounce back from stagnation will likely be a concern to traditional retailers.

Based on a three-month rolling average, December’s figures are the sixth straight month for which a decline in footfall was recorded, based on the same periods during 2012.