Shopper numbers down in December

BRC reports flagging footfall figures for UK retail.
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According to the British Retail Consortium footfall in December was 1.2 per cent lower than in 2011, despite seeing a 0.4 per cent rise last November.

The UK’s worst-hit locations this December were the North & Yorkshire, down 4.8 per cent, the East of England, down 7.1 per cent and Wales where footfall went down 11.5 per cent.

However four regions reported an increase in footfall, including the West Midlands 10.0 per cent, Scotland 6.2 per cent and Greater London 3.1 per cent.

On a month-on-month basis footfall rose considerably in all locations. Shopping centres increased 19.5% followed by high street (8.8%) and out-of-town (7.3%) locations.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: "It wasn't a bumper Christmas but it wasn't a disaster either. Our December retail sales figures showed very modest sales growth for the market as a whole.

"Although overall shopper numbers were slightly down on 2011, it appears that conversion rates were good – when people did get out to the shops they bought more per trip. The growing popularity of online retail also had an impact on shopper numbers, but it's important to remember that online retail sales are only just over 10 per cent of all retail spending and many people took advantage of the investment retailers have made in giving flexible delivery options. Click-online and collect-in-store came into its own.

"High streets have a particular appeal at Christmas. They had a smaller drop in footfall than shopping centres or out-of-town locations but, across the year as a whole, it's a different story. At minus 3.3 per cent, high streets suffered the biggest drop-off in shopper numbers. Generally, weak spending power is keeping people away and compounding long-standing difficulties in many of our town centres. This month's retail failures confirm the challenges are far from over.

"The Government should help erase the pain with a business rates freeze in April. Another steep rise can only lead to fewer jobs, less investment and more troubled high streets."

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