UK stores get New Year shocks as footfall proves weak
There was good news and bad for UK retail on Tuesday morning as footfall tracking specialist Springboard released its figures for New Year’s Eve and January 1.
On the plus side, New Year’s Day saw much heavier traffic to stores year-on-year with a 16.8% uplift. But there was a sting in the tail as the researcher said that part of the increase was due to the fact that January 1 2018 was on a Monday rather than a Sunday as in 2017.
And not only that, January 1 footfall had declined 23.8% between 2017 and 2016 so the uplift this year didn’t completely plug the gap. For the two-year period, the drop adds up to 7% and vividly underlines just how much online has taken over from physical stores over the period.
Meanwhile, given that New Year’s Eve was itself on a Sunday this time, it’s perhaps no surprise that footfall declined by 10.5% on the day and by 7.2% between 19:00 and midnight. Shopping malls suffered the most with a 13% drop, while retail parks were down 7.4% and high streets by 10.5%.
This poor performance follows drops in footfall on Boxing Day (down 4.5%) and a 2.3% dip over the period from December 27 to December 30. Over this four-day period post-Boxing Day, retail parks remained the most resilient with footfall declining by only 1.7% against drops of 1.9% in high streets and 3.8% in shopping centres.
Of course, a search for reasons has now begun. Although New Year’s Eve was a Sunday this time, Springboard clearly didn’t expect the visitor traffic decline and had actually been predicting a 3% rise. The large size of the drop took it by surprise and it suggested that poor weather might have played a part. Other, more local, issues such as a power cut at the giant Liverpool One mall on Sunday could also have played a part, albeit a minor one.
But it could simply be the case that Sunday remains a less important shopping day for many and that cautious consumers are less willing to spend at the moment.
Springboard’s insights director Diane Wehrle said: "The drop in footfall on New Year's Eve was unexpected, and particularly the magnitude of the decline. Overall the Christmas and New Year trading period this year has been challenging for bricks and mortar stores, with noticeably lower footfall than last year.
“In part this is a reflection of caution among consumers, but is also a function of underlying structural shifts in consumers’ shopping habits due to online activity, and the fact that spending is spread across a wider range of products than ever before which is increasingly encompassing leisure experiences rather than purely physical goods.”
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