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Published
Jan 2, 2017
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Footfall plummets at UK malls on New Year's Day

Published
Jan 2, 2017

Footfall to physical stores in the UK continued to be weak at the end of the year but 2017 started even worse with visitor traffic to shopping centres down by almost half.

Specialist tracking firm Springboard said Monday that visitors on January 1 were down 49.5% year-on-year at the country’s malls and even high streets, which have been more buoyant in recent months, saw 12.7% fewer visitors. Across all destinations, the average fall was 23.8%.

 

UK shopping centres saw slow visitor traffic on New Year's Day  

 

Is the picture as bad as that seems? Perhaps not quite as bad. January 1 2016 was a Friday. This year it fell on a Sunday, a day with restricted opening hours. Springboard also blamed bad weather for the fall, as well as consumers having spent most of their money taking advantage of discounts around the Black Friday period.

But even with all the perfectly understandable reasons, the New year’s weekend was a disappointment as with all retail destinations taken into account (shopping centres, retail parks and high streets) it saw a 16.1% footfall drop.

By contrast, Saturday and Sunday online rose 7%, with a rise of 18.2% on Saturday alone.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Insights Director, said: "Retailers traditionally see the first trading weekend of the New Year as a sign of things to come, and if this still rings true the industry is set for a rocky 2017.”

She said the allure of online shopping proved too strong a draw and this bodes badly for malls this year. “Having experienced a decline in footfall during 2016, these destinations need to up their game in order to provide additional reasons to draw shoppers away from their devices with an offer going beyond retail.”

Springboard told Fashion Network earlier last year that an excessive concentration of retail units in shopping centres and too few leisure options means shoppers who can easily buy online have no added inducement to venture out. And she added that this problem needs to be addressed by retail landlords when looking at the mix in their malls.

Springboard’s New year’s Day figures came on the heels of its stats for last week that showed the key shopping period from December 26 to 28 lagging as visitor traffic fell 5.8% in the UK. Boxing day (December 26) saw the biggest year-on-year decline (7.3%).

While shopping centres actually performed the best later on with a shock 15.5% rise on Wednesday alone, that didn’t make up for a 20.7% drop on Boxing Day and a 5% fall on Tuesday.

It seems consumers who were in a shopping mood on the first day after Christmas felt going online was the best bet. Springboard said online transactions rose 5.7% in the three-day period.

It said the run-up to Christmas and the immediate post-Christmas period was “a disappointing couple of weeks for UK retail,”  and added that the 5.8% fall was “worrying retailers as they begin to look to 2017 and how they will face the impact of low footfall in the industry’s biggest seasonal sales period.”

Wehrle said: “The continued decline in footfall is in line with the long-term trend we have been recording alongside the growth of online channels. This festive season – the first post-Brexit – has been an experience for the industry learning how to best operate in a changed economic environment.”

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