According to Ipsos Retail Performance, a global retail and footfall consultant, retailers have seen a surge in footfall in the UK over the past week, with the final Saturday before Christmas proving even busier than Black Friday.
The number of shoppers visiting non-food stores has been climbing throughout December, rising by 12% in the last full trading week before Christmas compared to the one before. This matched the week-on-week increases seen for the same week in December for the past two years.
Ipsos compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
Overall, footfall was down -3.1% compared to the same week in 2014, creating a wider gap than the one seen in the previous week when it stood at -2.6%. The busiest day of last week was ‘Panic Saturday’, when footfall was up by 5.6% on Black Friday. However, it failed to match the numbers seen three weeks earlier on the Saturday following Black Friday (28th November), which were 4% higher, making that the busiest in-store shopping day of the year so far.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, says: “The build-up of shoppers grew at a reassuring pace last week. Perhaps store trading isn’t quite as brisk as we had imagined it would be by this time this year, given the extra cash consumers have in their pockets this Christmas, but after a soft couple of months in UK stores December’s outcome is looking more promising.
“The fact that the number of people out shopping on ‘Panic Saturday’ fell short of those seeking bargains on the Saturday directly following Black Friday, implies that shoppers are dictating the terms again this year and are far from being in panic mode.
“Retailers are still playing trading catch-up through the store channel, thanks to the slow start to the month, when many people took a break from shopping, reflecting gleefully on their Black Friday trophies.”
For the second consecutive week, The South-west and Wales was the only region to see year-on-year shopper growth in shopper numbers, which were up 2.3% for the equivalent week in 2014. The strongest week-on-week growth came in Scotland and Northern Ireland where retail traffic was 17.4% stronger than the week before. Stores in the North of England saw the best reversal in fortunes over the week, with shopper numbers just 0.1% below last year’s, and week-on-week growth up 14.2%.
Tim adds: “All Christmas campaigns are difficult to predict, but this year is proving to be a game of snakes and ladders. The score-draw between purveyors and purchasers of Black Friday bargains, the subsequent switch from store to online by shoppers, and last week’s double-digit growth in high street numbers, is keeping us guessing where the month will end up.
“With the extra pre-Christmas day of shopping this week on last year, and a long weekend to follow, store footfall could still match last year’s December level and, across all channels, we may still see trading well up on last year. We’ll have to wait and see what the last few shakes of the dice reveal."