UK footfall suffers ongoing Black Friday effect in January
We didn’t really think that we’d still be talking about the impact of Black Friday this far into the New Year. But the latest Ipsos Retail Performance footfall tracker, the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), shows us that the big discount day in late November was still making its effects felt last month.
UK retail footfall was 6.6% lower in January 2018 compared to last year, and Black Friday is being blamed.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence, said Black Friday isn’t only switching festive season demand from December into November but is also impacting the January clearance sale period as many people take advantage of discounts two months earlier.
“At the start of the new year there is always much speculation and anticipation about how busy shops will be. This year was no exception, thanks to fears [about] Black Friday promotions,” he said.
“Retailers reported mixed results on Christmas trading 2017. While fashion brands Primark, Hugo Boss and more recently Joules, have posted positive results, M&S and Tesco have started the year with announcements of job cuts. Sales of high-ticket items have also struggled, strengthening the concern that shoppers would begin the year cautiously.”
And he added that January’s footfall figures confirm that it has been a slow start to the retail year, though the news varies across the regions. In the North of England, despite an encouraging start to the month, the later bad weather conditions affected numbers, for instance.
But surprisingly, it wasn’t the North that was worst affected but the so-called ‘affluent’ South East England and London. Footfall figures there were down almost 12% compared to the same period last January.
While Black Friday promotions pulled sales away from the post-Christmas period, it seems that maybe Londoners are also more online-focused and are buying much more on webstores these days. Meanwhile further North, bad weather was more likely to be blamed for footfall dips.
Whatever the reasons, it’s the ninth consecutive month that UK store footfall has declined compared to the previous year.
And compared to the previous month, footfall dropped 27.1%. While it might seem obvious that visitor traffic would be lower post-Christmas than before, given that footfall had also been weak in December and that January shopping is all about bargains, such a sharp drop is something of a surprise.
Dr Denison added: “It’s been well documented that market conditions were exceptionally tough last year, and understandably the British public are remaining watchful as we start 2018. This is building an imperative for retailers to review their business models to operate differently in order to survive.”
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