November footfall edges up after four months of decline

Footfall in November increased by 0.2% year-on-year, as retailers enticed customers with early deals in the lead up to Black Friday.

This is an improvement on the figure seen in November 2016 (-0.1%) and above the three-month average of -1% and the 12 month rolling average of -0.4%, according to the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall Vacancies report.

The South East, the North and Yorkshire each showed strong growth of 1.6%, followed by West Midlands (1.1%), East Midlands and Wales (0.9%) and the East (0.8%).

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Greater London recorded a slight decline of 0.1%, a deceleration compared to last year’s decrease of 0.8%; however, this is the fifth month of consecutive decline.

The deepest decline in footfall in November occurred in Northern Ireland (2.4%), Scotland (2.0%) and South West (1.5%).

Of the three shopping locations, shopping centres were the poorest performers, growing in South West and Wales only.

The high street showed positive growth for all but three regions – Greater London, Northern Ireland and South West – and retail parks continued to show growth, but at a decelerated rate 0.3% compared to 1.8% six months ago.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that while online continues to take the greatest share of Black Friday sales, stores continue to prove popular for visitors as showrooms and click and collect destinations.

However, she warned that while November’s growth in footfall is welcome after four months of decline, it is unlikely to signal a reversal of the longer-term trend.

“As price increases for food continue to eat into household finances, consumer spending power for discretionary non-food items will inevitably weaken. So a cautious consumer may sap some of the sparkle from this year’s Christmas trading, which means retailers are going to have to compete even harder for customer spend, which is always good news for consumers,” she said.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director agreed: “The marginal rise in footfall of +0.2% in November compared with a drop of -2% in October should be taken with a pinch of salt and sadly doesn’t necessarily indicate a change in the winter fortunes of retailers.

“November was characterised by significant discounting with flash sales of up to 50% off, which culminated in the Black Friday period at the end of the month. Whilst Black Friday was largely an online event, the rise in footfall of +3.3% from the first half of the month to the second half demonstrated that it drove activity into retail destinations, both in the lead up to it the day itself and over the weekend post Black Friday as shoppers collected online purchases,” she continued.

“However, what is also clear is that many trips were leisure rather than spending driven, as footfall across all destinations rose post 5pm by +1.7% but dropped by -0.3% during retail trading hours.”

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