UK high street footfall drops 3.4% before Christmas rush

Monday, 16 December 2013 09:56

The UK’s high street has experienced the biggest decline in shopper numbers since October 2012, according to a new report that indicates a slow start to the festive shopping season.

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) research measures footfall, which is the amount of people entering a shop or shopping area in a specified time. The latest figures demonstrated a drop in footfall for out-of-town shops and shopping centres alike.

In November alone, the figures show footfall across all shop types was down by 2.9 per cent compared to a year ago. This parallels the numbers from October and was largely caused by a 4.2 per cent fall in high street-shoppers.

The report also reveals a 3.4 per cent annual drop in footfall for high streets from September to November – this is the most dramatic fall since August 2012.

All regions of the UK have suffered this drop, but the sharpest decline in shoppers was experienced in the West Midlands.

Helen Dickinson, BRC’s director general, stated that the figures conform to recent indicators in the BRC’s sales data  that suggest festive spending has started at a slow, but steady pace.

Ms Dickinson added: "While some areas saw an improvement in footfall compared with the previous month, numbers were negative across the board, strengthening the sense that many of us were holding off on major shopping trips until December ushered in the final countdown to Christmas."

The Household Finance Index from data company Markit provides possible explanations as to why footfall has decreased since last year. The report suggests that households are feeling the pressure as wages fail to keep up with the pace of inflation.

According to the results, respondents felt that their financial wellbeing had deteriorated, but they were more optimistic about the future.

Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, said: "December's survey suggests that a rising proportion of UK households are hopeful that the squeeze on their finances will begin to subside during 2014.

“The improving outlook indicates that strengthening domestic economic conditions have started to boost consumer sentiment.”

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