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Published on October 15th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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Springboard predicts this year’s Christmas footfall

Retail intelligence firm Springboard is has offered its footfall forecast for the Christmas trading period this year, in which it hypothesizes an average fall of 17% from Sunday 21st November through to Saturday 4th January compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019 – a continuation of the current trajectory recorded in September this year, which saw shopper numbers down 17.4%.

While acknowledging the anticipated continuation of supply issues facing retailers is likely to lead to consumers bringing their festive shopping forward to November in the hope of obtaining their desired purchases, Springboard has not included the first three weeks of the month, so make what you will of the predictions….

Shopping destinations

This year, the decline on 2019 will be driven by high streets and shopping centres, with shopper numbers down 17.7% and 17.5% respectively. In contrast, retail parks, where footfall has been far more resilient throughout the pandemic, will continue to strengthen their grip on consumer traffic, averaging 5.5% higher than in 2019 over the six-week period.

Retail parks are also likely to be particularly strong over the last two weeks of the trading period, averaging 11.8% higher as pre-Christmas food shopping is undertaken in the week running up to the event.

Diane Wehrle, Marketing & Insights Director for Springboard, said: “This further boost over the trading period to what is an already strong footfall base in retail parks is likely to be a result of shoppers heading to larger stores where they feel safe, but which also offer a wide range of products, are easy to access with free parking and many of which provide convenient click and collect facilities.”

Wehrle predicts that Black Friday will be more popular this year, with week 47 [W/C 21st November] seeing a boost of 7.9%, and 6.5% in week 48, as shoppers take advantage of widespread discounting. This contrasts with the average Black Friday week footfall uplift of 5.1% between 2014 and 2019 and 1.7% in both 2018 and 2019.

Large city centres  

Footfall in large city centres will strengthen over the six-week Christmas period, overtaking smaller high streets. This will differ with trends seen throughout the pandemic as consumers “look to seek out the Christmas shopping experience they missed last year”, according to Springboard. Footfall increases from week to week will be greater in regional cities than in market towns in each of the six weeks, and it will mean that the gap in numbers from 2019 in regional cities will average -15.8% versus -16.9% in market towns.  The increased attractiveness of larger city centres to consumers at Christmas can be seen in the forecast uplift from 2020, +140.3% in regional cities versus +47.5% in market towns over the six-week period.

Christmas week

Shopper numbers are likely to continue to rise into Christmas week, with an increase of 6.5% from the week before. With Christmas Day falling on a weekend this year, this provides a longer final trading week, offering consumers an opportunity to shop in store in the immediate days leading up to Christmas when it cannot always be guaranteed that online purchases will be delivered in time.

Post-Christmas shopping kicks off with Boxing Day on the Sunday this year. Since 2016, footfall has declined on Boxing Day every year, dropping by 8.6% in 2019, and Springboard predicts this is unlikely to change in 2021 as footfall is not only generally lower on Sunday due to reduced hours, but also a number of leading retailers have already announced that they will not be opening, which will lead consumers to defer trips.

Post-Christmas week footfall in high streets and shopping centres will drop by around 20%, a level of decline that has been a trend for the past decade.  However, the need to replenish food and groceries after Boxing Day, combined with discounting, will continue to drive increased footfall into retail parks.

“Although footfall will be +80.9% stronger in comparison to 2020, this result is distorted as last year retailers were forced to close their doors for four weeks from the beginning of November, which overlapped with two of the six-week Christmas trading period,” said Wehrle.  

“Whilst footfall will rise over the Christmas trading period, it will remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, part of which is the long term shift of some spend online which has impacted footfall by around -1.5% per annum for the past decade.”

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