Christmas trade “is on a knife edge” according to the British Retail Consortium, whose latest figures show a decline in footfall as the festive season approaches.
The organisation looked at footfall in the two weeks beginning November 28 and December 5 and compared each set of figures with those of the previous year and the previous week.
In the week beginning November 28 the number of shoppers was boosted by a combination of the effects of public sector strikes and the end of the month payday. Also, year-on-year growth was helped by soft comparatives on 2010 when snow hit shopper numbers.
In that week, on a year-by-year basis, both high street and out-of-town locations performed well, growing footfall by over 15% each, while shopping centre footfall rose by 8.9%.
On a week-by-week basis during the November week, all locations also enjoyed footfall growth, albeit smaller, with shopping centres seeing the biggest boost, up 11.4%.
However, in the week commencing December 5 footfall in all locations fell when compared to 2010. The number of shoppers on high streets dropped the most, by 2.6%.
Compared with the previous week, footfall also declined in both high streets and out-of-town locations, by 2.2% and 1.4% respectively. Only shopping centres saw a rise on the previous week, of 1.3%.
The BRC’s director general, Stephen Robertson, said: “Retailers are telling us the increased footfall [in the final week of November] did translate into an increase in sales, although some of this was spending brought forward, undermining shopper numbers the following week.
“Footfall should be on a rising trend as Christmas gets closer. This drop shows festive sales are still on a knife edge. The fact Christmas Day falls on a Sunday will mean some shoppers leaving purchases until the final Saturday, but with only one full week of trading to go before the holidays the final result is very much hanging in the balance.”