December retail footfall flat says British Retail Consortium - as online lifts

Footfall for retail outlets in December was 0.2 per cent down on a year ago and marked a fourth consecutive month of decline.

However the fall was far shallower than the 2.2 per cent drop in December 2015, and this month's figure is above the three-month average of -0.5 per cent.

Garden centres reported mixed results, with Christmas tree sales struggling in some areas.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Overall, December saw a continuation of the downward trend in footfall, with shopper numbers falling 0.2 per cent over the previous year. It was a more positive story for the high street, which saw a modest bounceback with positive growth for the first time in December since 2011, after managing to draw in last minute shoppers.

"Solid festive sales did not translate into a lift in footfall above last year as online continues to grab the lion’s share of growth. E-commerce accounted for nearly a quarter of all purchases in December, suggesting that more shoppers than ever opted to go online rather than hit the shops.

"Retailers are having to gear themselves up to meet the evolution in shoppers’ requirements from bricks and mortar destinations. This will be key looking ahead, with inflation set to rise and a subsequent squeeze on disposable income; the environment for consumer spending will become increasingly competitive."

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: "The final result of a drop in footfall of just -0.2 per cent in December compared with -2.2 per cent in December 2015 was more positive than the results for key trading days over Christmas led us to believe it would be.  

"The month began just after Black Friday, which is now generating a similar level of in-store spend to Boxing Day, and so is clearly bringing forward shopping that in the past took place during December.  This together with the fact that Christmas Day fell at the end of the fourth trading week meant that shoppers deferred purchases in order to snap up any additional discounts –demonstrated by the fact that footfall remained virtually flat until the third week of the month. 

"Also evident is that the availability of discounts throughout December is subduing the significance of our traditional sale days of Boxing Day and New Year’s Day for bricks and mortar trips.

"The +0.8 per cent rise in high street footfall in December – which concluded a year when high street footfall moved from -1.9 per cent between January and December in 2015 to -1.1 pr cent in 2016 - suggests that the supposition of the death of the high street has been greatly exaggerated.  The shift in consumer demand from focusing on the purchase of physical goods to encompass experiences has clearly benefited the high street as its offer has been able to transition quickly via an improved food and beverage offer which has helped to bring in much needed footfall."


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