High streets and shopping centres saw their biggest decline in footfall during December for more than a year, as consumers headed to out-of-town retail stores and websites for their purchases instead.
The volume of footfall in high streets and shopping centres fell 4% and 2% respectively, according to British Retail Consortium.
In contrast, footfall in retail park locations increased 2.1% year-on-year, sl slightly above November’s 2% rise.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, conceded that December was the ninth consecutive month in which shopper footfall has declined, with high streets in particular but also shopping malls continuing to fare poorly.
“Retailers are having to revamp their businesses in order to respond to the profound changes in the way we are all shopping,” she said. “”This trading environment should also be considered with the impact of the industry’s regulatory burden. BRC analysis shows that the combined cost of policy announcements since the General Election adds up to approximately £14 billion over the next five years.”
She said the industry will continue to make the case to government, which has extended its review of business rates to early 2016, to properly look at rebalancing this tax away from property intensive industries in order to ensure that the introduction of the living wage does not have unintended consequences on jobs.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said that the surge in online spending in December clearly impacted heavily on traditional urban retail destinations.
“The catalyst was the plethora of online discounts on Black Friday which then continued throughout December; resulting in a drop of 4% in high street footfall was the most severe since November 2014, and far deeper than the drop of 1.8% in December 2014. Even shopping centres – with their concentration of multiple retailers usually considered to be a safe and reliable option for Christmas shopping – fell victim, with footfall dropping by 2% a greater decline than the modest 0.1% fall in December 2014.”