December was a retail disaster, show figures

Well, that's it. Hopes of a bumper December for the high street are dashed as the BRC releases figures showing footfall in 2012 was worse than the previous year.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It looked for a while as though retailers had enjoyed a slightly better-than-average Christmas period in 2012, as the results from the big chains looked mostly encouraging. But alas, the British Retail Consortium revealed on Monday that the number of shoppers in December fell by 1.2% compared with the same period the previous year.

The BRC’s director general, Helen Dickinson, said: ‘Weak spending power is keeping people away and compounding long-standing difficulties in many of our town centres. This month’s retail figures confirm the challenges are far from over.’ And after the last couple of weeks, HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster will no doubt attest to that. 

Oddly, the BRC said that the decline came in spite of a 7.5% rise in shopper numbers in the seven days leading up to Christmas – that means more last-minute shoppers than the same week in 2011. It also means that the other weeks of the month must have been particularly bad for footfall and sales. 

The BRC data comes just a few days after the Office for National Statistics announced that retail sales were 0.1% down, month-on-month, as clothing and food sale struggled to gain any Yuletide momentum. 

Across the year as whole, Britain’s high streets saw a 3.3% fall in footfall, but Dickinson did point out that Christmas prompted better footfall on the high street, which saw a decline of just 0.5% year-on-year - meanwhile, shopping centres saw footfall decline 2.8% and out-of-town retail parks saw a 1% fall in footfall. 

Dickinson added: ‘High streets have a particular appeal at Christmas. They had a smaller drop in footfall than shopping centres of out-of-town locations, but, across the year as a whole, it’s a different story.’

Given that the year has kicked off with a slew of high street firms falling into administration, we’re not hopeful that 2013 will be an easy year…

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