The latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) presents a more pessimistic outlook for retail footfall in December compared to the findings of MRI Software. According to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data, total footfall in the UK fell by 5% year-on-year in the five weeks leading up to December 30. This decline can be partially attributed to the persistent heavy rain that dampened shopper enthusiasm during this period.

The BRC-Sensormatic IQ data further revealed that high street footfall experienced a 4.2% decrease, visits to retail parks dipped by 4.8%, and shopping centre footfall suffered the most with a significant 7.4% decline in December. However, it should be noted that the MRI figures, which highlighted malls as the top performers, used different criteria to assess visitor traffic.

When looking at footfall trends across the UK nations, Scotland witnessed the smallest drop at -2.2%, followed by Northern Ireland (-4.7%), England (-5.8%), and Wales (-5.8%).

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, explained that the heavy rain dissuaded many shoppers from venturing out, leading them to explore online browsing or opt for complete online purchases. She acknowledged that the considerable decrease in footfall could be attributed to the pent-up demand for in-store shopping in December 2022 after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. However, some cities, like Edinburgh, experienced an increase in footfall due to recent investments in new shopping destinations.

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, shared his observations on footfall trends. He noted occasional peaks in shopper traffic during discounting days, such as Boxing Day. However, many shoppers may have been waiting for a last-minute Christmas rush that ultimately did not materialize. Sumpter also highlighted the disappointment for retailers in the overall downward trajectory of store visits during December, which is typically the peak of the Golden Quarter. He hopes that demand will improve as inflation eases and its impact on disposable incomes lessens.

Overall, the BRC’s data presents a less optimistic picture of retail footfall in December compared to the figures reported by MRI Software. The heavy rainfall and changing consumer behaviors, including increased online shopping, influenced the decline in footfall levels. Retailers are now hopeful for improved demand as inflation decreases and consumer spending bounces back.

Useful Links:
1. BRC-Sensormatic IQ: Footfall Slumps by 5% Due to Heavy Rainfall
2. MRI Software: Understanding the Power of Retail Footfall