High Street footfall decline slows in 2011
Footfall in the UK High Streets saw a 1.1% drop in footfall in 2011 compared with 3.5% fall in the previous year according to figures released by Springboard, the retail footfall specialist. This is the lowest decline recorded since the index was launched five years ago.
Springboard’s National High Street Index Annual Review also revealed the UK’s first annual increase in footfall for the month of December since the launch of the NHSI with footfall increasing by 5.1% year-on-year. The increase was attributed to three key factors; the adverse weather conditions in December 2010 (resulting in an annual footfall decline of 11.2%), the extra weekend of Christmas trading and rush of spend conscious consumers encouraged by the significant price reductions offered by major retailers following a late start to festive shopping.
The report identified that the High Street’s resilience could be attributed to a growing trend for consumers to ‘shop local’ with shoppers choosing to shop within their local catchment area and support local businesses. Consequently, shoppers visited regional cities less frequently to avoid petrol, transport and parking costs with footfall dropping 4.2% year-on-year.
Other beneficiaries of this 'shop local' mood included coastal towns which experienced a further annual uplift in footfall of 2.3% following an increase of 5.7% in 2010. Another factor for this coastal town gain was the significant investment made by many to diversify their offering, improve facilities and maximise on the rise of the ‘staycation’ to recoup visitor numbers.
Commenting on the findings, Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, said: "Overall, 2011 has been a more positive year for the UK High Street than initially anticipated and we have seen the first real sign of significant annual turnaround due to a strong December and a growing trend for consumers to ‘shop local’. However, in turn, this has affected footfall to the major regional cities as shoppers continue to feel the pinch."
Steve Booth, CEO of Springboard, added: "Despite the challenges that the UK High Street faces, the encouraging December footfall figure and the relatively static level of footfall throughout the year indicates that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. It is important to note that this gradual rise in footfall does not necessarily mean that shoppers are spending but it does mean retailers have an increased sales opportunity.
"While Springboard figures show the High Street is managing to maintain shoppers, the challenge is getting them to spend; what will be interesting to see is how national events and holidays such as the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee will impact footfall and spend in 2012."
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