UK retail footfall suffered a sharper decline in November, figures on Friday showed, with rail strikes adding to a wall of worry for the sector, which will be hoping for a festive boost this month.
The latest British Retail Consortium-Sensormatic IQ monitor showed retail footfall slid 13% versus pre-virus levels last month, worse than the three-month average fall of just under 12%.
High street footfall alone fell 14% on three years ago, a worse outcome than the three-month average of just over 12%. In shopping centres, footfall was 23% lower, largely in line with the three-month average. In retail parks, the number of visitors fell 4.2%, compared to the three-month average of 2.7%.
‘Footfall took another stumble as the cost of living crisis put off some consumers from visiting the shops in November. Others opted to stay home due to the scattering of rail strikes, or chose the World Cup over shopping visits. Many big cities were particularly hard hit, with Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester all seeing the biggest drops in footfall since January,’ BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said.
After a fraught November, there are more strikes for retail to contend with this month and the next.
More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime & Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on December 13, 14, 16 and 17; and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.
Dickinson added: ‘Rising inflation and low consumer confidence continue to dampen spending expectations in the run-up to Christmas. Despite retailers doing their best to keep prices as low as possible for their customers, financial concerns are trumping spending for many households. But, with three more weeks to Christmas, retailers hope that the festive spirit may still give a welcome boost to both footfall and retail sales.’
Last month was not all doom and gloom for UK retail, Sensormatic analyst Andy Sumpter explained.
‘November brought a slew of disruption and opportunity, almost in equal measure. While train strikes did spell disruption to many, concerns that the untested format of a ’Christmas World Cup’ could take the shine off retailers’ Black Friday efforts proved unfounded, with the results in-store bettering the results on the field for England and Wales,’ Sumpter added.
‘With footfall on Black Friday surpassing 2021 levels, retailers will be hoping this signposts a resilience in consumer demand, even in the context of the rising cost-of-living, as they head into the critical December Christmas trading period.’
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