Data shows change in VAT rate led to increase in shoppers searching for last minute bargains online
December’s footfall result for December 2009 compared with December 2008 revealed a decline of 2.8%. Regionally, the areas worst affected by the snow had the worst performance, with the hardest hit region being the North East showing a 10.78% decline, followed by Scotland which showed a year-on-year drop of 9.15% and the East Midlands with a 8.23% decline.
Experian FootFall: regional breakdown
Regional Index Eastern -0.05 %
Regional Index East Midlands -8.23 %
Regional Index London -4.28 %
Regional Index North East -10.78%
Regional Index North West -4.36 %
Regional Index Scotland -9.15 %
Regional Index South East -2.06 %
Regional Index South West and Wales 6.53 %
Regional Index West Midlands -3.91 %
Regional Index Yorkshire-Humber -6.20 %
Anita Manan, senior analyst for Experian Footfall comments: “The days of a traditional slow and steady pace of growth in shopper numbers to the high street have been replaced with wise, shrewd and confident consumers, who buy at the best prices online before hitting the high streets at a time when retailers start their promotional activity. However this year, consumers who played the waiting game and held back until the last few days to Christmas may have been disappointed or frustrated that the weather somewhat jeopardised their strategy.
As the final week of Christmas commenced, shoppers who were unable to travel in the treacherous conditions were left no choice but to postpone shopping or go online and hope that the delivery would not be disrupted by the weather.”
Jonathan de Mello, director of retail and property, Experian comments: “December was a mixed picture for retailers, with some, such as John Lewis and Next, performing very well, and others such as D2 and La Senza clearly struggling. With footfall as a whole down overall for December however, when set against a poor Christmas 2008, it is clear that December was disappointing for the majority of retailers. John Lewis is an outlier in many respects, benefiting from the southern bias of its stores (as footfall suffered most in Scotland and northern England, which was worst hit by the weather) and the fact that John Lewis stores act as destinations in their own right, with their own car parking and everything under one roof, sheltered from the elements.
“The phenomenal levels of footfall on Boxing Day and the days immediately after won’t make up entirely for the under-performance seen in the first three weeks up to Christmas Eve. Plus this footfall came at a cost as retailers were offering substantially discounted product (albeit less than last year), which will have impacted their profit margins. This reluctance on the part of consumers to shop in the run up to Christmas was due in part to the bad weather, but also an increasingly price conscious, discount driven UK shopper.
“Retailers are significantly more resilient than this time last year, however, and had planned for an anticipated poor Christmas by cutting down on excess stock, squeezing their suppliers and reducing store overheads and staff costs. Additionally, they have also benefited from the relative appreciation of sterling vs December 2008. It is those retailers that haven’t had the bargaining power or economies of scale to do this that will struggle most due to the poor December we have had, i.e. the UK’s dwindling collection of independent retailers. Though we are unlikely to see any further multiple retailers entering administration/CVA in the near future – as many multiples have now negotiated monthly rental deals – the same is not true for independent retailers, as many haven’t had the bargaining power to negotiate such deals.”