After MRI’s upbeat footfall report, BRC takes bleaker view of December figures

After MRI’s upbeat footfall report, BRC takes bleaker view of December figures

Rainfall played a major part in retail footfall numbers across the Christmas trading period as one of the wettest Decembers on record dampened shopper enthusiasm in the most important trading period of the year, according to the British Retail Consortium.

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Total UK footfall fell 5% year-on-year in the five weeks to 30 December, its BRC-Sensormatic IQ data showed. That contradicts more upbeat figures that had come from MRI Software earlier this week, although slightly different criteria for assessing the visitor traffic (such as actual store visits rather than just traffic to retail destinations) can produce those different results.

High street footfall fell 4.2%; retail park visits dipped 4.8% last month and shopping centre footfall suffered the most with a 7.4% dip in December (again, the MRI figures had claimed malls were the top performers).

Of the UK nations, Scotland saw the least significant year-on-year drop in footfall (-2.2%); Northern Ireland saw a drop of 4.7%, followed by England and Wales (both at -5.8%).

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said “December’s heavy rain left many shoppers reluctant to brave the elements, who instead opted to browse online before making final purchases, or shop online altogether.

“This led to a substantial decline in footfall levels compared to December 2022, when there was significant pent-up demand for in-store shopping post-Covid-restrictions. Some cities, such as Edinburgh, bucked the trend, and saw footfall levels rise in December thanks to recent investment in new, exciting shopping destinations.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, added: “While we saw festive glimmers of shopper traffic peaks in and around discounting days, such as Boxing Day when footfall improved 39.2% week-on-week, many may have been waiting for a last-minute Christmas trading rush that never came.  There’s little doubt that the overall downward year-on-year trajectory in store visits in December — usually the crescendo of the Golden Quarter – will have come as a blow. Retailers will be hoping that demand improves as inflation starts to ease and the impact of the inflationary spending squeeze on disposable incomes softens.”

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