Footfall across the UK fell 1.2% year-on-year in December as shoppers took fewer trips to high streets, shopping centres and out-of-town retail parks.
The BRC Springboard Footfall Monitor showed footfall weakened in all three locations compared with a year earlier. Shopping centres reported the greatest fall at 2.8%, followed by out-of-town down 1% and high street which fell 0.5%.
The 1.2% fall is weaker than the 0.4% year-on-year rise recorded the previous month.
The hardest-hit parts of the UK in December were Wales, down 11.5%, the East of England, down 7.1% and the North and Yorkshire which fell 4.8%.
However, footfall in the West Midlands rose 10%, Scotland 6.2% and Greater London 3.1%.
On a month-on-month basis footfall rose considerably in all locations in December. Shopping centres increased 19.5% followed by high streets at 8.8%and out-of-town which rose 7.3%.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said that, while many shoppers migrated online, people took fewer shopping trips due to the continued economic downturn. However, she said conversion rates per trip were up.
She said: “It wasn’t a bumper Christmas but it wasn’t a disaster either. Our December retail sales figures showed very modest sales growth for the market as a whole.
“Although overall shopper numbers were slightly down on 2011, it appears that conversion rates were good – when people did get out to the shops they bought more per trip. The growing popularity of online retail also had an impact on shopper numbers, but it’s important to remember that online retail sales are only just over 10% of all retail spending and many people took advantage of the investment retailers have made in giving flexible delivery options. Click-online and collect-in-store came into its own.”
She added: “High streets have a particular appeal at Christmas. They had a smaller drop in footfall than shopping centres or out-of-town locations but, across the year as a whole, it’s a different story. At minus 3.3%, high streets suffered the biggest drop-off in shopper numbers. Generally, weak spending power is keeping people away and compounding long-standing difficulties in many of our town centres. This month’s retail failures confirm the challenges are far from over.”
Dickinson said a freeze in business rates in April would help “ease the pain” on the high street and said a rise would lead to fewer jobs in the high street in light of the administrations of HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster in recent weeks.
The BRC has also called for the Government to tackle the huge backlog of business rates appeals as delays in refunding retailers could put them out of business. Appeals to HM Revenue & Customs’ Valuation Office stand at almost 250,000, the BRC said.