UK footfall falters in Black Friday month but fashion gets uplift from discounts
“If further evidence was needed that Black Friday has altered shopping patterns over the Golden Quarter, then this year’s store footfall data provides it.” That was the statement that opened the latest Ipsos Retail Performance footfall report, covering November, and it certainly highlighted the challenges UK retail is facing.
The company’s Retail Traffic Index (RTI) figures showed that November footfall was down again, that Black Friday “lost its momentum”, but that fashion stores did manage to attract plenty of shoppers through their doors.
The RTI is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK and showed monthly footfall down 2.1%. And while Black Friday week was up 19.6% compared to the previous week, year-on-year it was down a fairly hefty 3.8%.
“Black Friday received the blue rinse treatment in the UK this year, as it lost its appeal and showed its age,” said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “The event is widely regarded by British retailers as one of the worst things to have come out of the United States, culling October sales and undermining consumers’ willingness to pay full prices, at a time when they are supposed to be ready to loosen their purse-strings for the Christmas splurge.”
But as mentioned, this is one cloud that had a silver lining for the fashion sector with it being the only sector that swam against the tide. Clothing and footwear saw Black Friday footfall rising 5.8%, although the sting in the tail is that this was “largely driven by significant discounting.”
The fashion footfall news was a rare bright spot after October had seen footfall plummeting by 7.4% year-on-year as that month continued its tradition being one of the most problematic months in the fashion retail calendar.
Also good news, the RTI showed that “average weekly footfall has been in recovery” during November. While it didn’t exactly mean we saw un upsurge, the fact that footfall levels were up by 8.1% compared to October (the strongest uplift month-on-month in five years) did offer a little cheer.
“All the attention now turns to the most important month of the retail calendar, conjecturing whether the spirit of Christmas will vanquish over the behemoth of Brexit,” Denison added. “Our early store footfall forecast in the non-food sector will fall by just 3.6% year-on-year, the smallest decline in any month since July 2017. As in recent years, most festive in-store shopping is expected to be squeezed into the last week before Christmas.”
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