Shopper Numbers Drop on New Year’s Eve as Consumers Ignore the UK High Street

Photo via Oast House Archive

Shopper numbers dropped over New Year’s Eve, as shopping centres and high streets battled against the increasing popularity of online retail.

According to data from retail experts Springboard, Footfall fell by 10.5 percent on New Year’s Eve. In shopping centres, footfall dropped by as much as 13 percent.

The decline in customer numbers comes after a weak performance over the period following Christmas when retailers attempted to attract shoppers with significant sales. On Boxing Day, footfall declined by 4.5, and in the period between the 27th of December and the 30th of December, shopper numbers dropped by 2.3 percent.

The insights director at Springboard, Diane Wehrle, said that shoppers may well have been prevented by Storm Dylan earlier in the day. However, he pointed out that even between 7 pm and midnight, footfall fell by 7.2 percent on the high streets of the United Kingdom.

“Overall the Christmas & New Year trading period this year has been challenging for bricks and mortar stores, with noticeably lower footfall than last year,” said Wehrle.

“In part this is a reflection of caution amongst consumers, but is also a function of underlying structural shifts in consumers’ shopping habits due to online activity, and the fact that spending is spread across a wider range of products than ever before which is increasingly encompassing leisure experiences rather than purely physical goods.”

Analysts at Jefferies have forecasted a rough year ahead for retailers, stating that the high inflation and low consumer confidence suggest that shoppers will be cautious with their spending.

The analysts said: “With real GDP growth expected to slow, ongoing Brexit negotiations and rising interest rates we think consumers will spend prudently in 2018.

“In light of this, in the UK we have a preference for discounters like B&M who are well positioned for any weakness in the consumer environment…We would avoid cyclically leveraged retailers like Dunelm or operationally-challenged retailers like Sports Direct.”

Richard Hyman, an independent retail analyst, said that retailers would be required to focus on more than just cost savings in order to be successful this year.

“No one is going to be a winner in this market because they are good at managing costs. That has to be a given,” he said. “Being great at selling is the non-negotiable skill in this market. And being good at selling has to begin and end with the customer…Investing in truly understanding your core customer is critical.”