Footfall stumbles amid rising prices and tightening purse strings
Footfall took a stumble in its slow return to pre-pandemic levels as rising prices and tightening purse strings meant fewer consumers made trips to the shops, figures show.
Total UK footfall was down 11.8% on October three years ago – a comparison to iron out pandemic discrepancies – two percentage points worse than October, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Sensormatic IQ data.
High Street footfall was down 11.6%, although this was 0.3 percentage points better than last month’s rate and an improvement on the three-month average decline of 11.9%. Retail park visits were down 3.7% while shopping centres saw 21.8% fewer visitors than October 2019.
England again saw the shallowest footfall decline of all regions at 11.4%, followed by Scotland at 12% and Northern Ireland at 13.1%. Wales saw the steepest decline at 16.1%.
October marked the first full month of higher energy bills for households after the price cap rose by 26%, reducing discretionary spending, while rail strikes also hampered potential footfall.
BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said: “The next few months will be crucial, as the Christmas spending period begins.
“Households are unlikely to see the cost-of-living crisis ease any time soon, and retailers are finding it harder to shoulder the mounting supply chain pressures.”
Andy Sumpter, from Sensormatic Solutions, said: “As consumers and retailers both adapt to what’s being coined the ‘new abnormal’ in which economic and political uncertainty creates new – and increasingly frequent – curveballs, retailers will be hoping to minimise disruption to safeguard their Christmas performance.
“Furthermore, with planned postal strikes in November risking disruption to Black Friday deliveries, retailers will be encouraging shoppers to head in store, rather than risking delayed deliveries when shopping online for Black Friday deals.”
In separate figures, retail sales growth had a disappointing October, with a strong first week masking poor performance across the rest of the month as the crucial “Golden Quarter” made a slow start.
Total combined in-store and online sales grew by just 3.5% on last October, compared to a base of 19.9% in the equivalent month last year.
The fashion sector was the strongest performing category throughout October, with total sales up 6.7%. However, lifestyle sales fell by 0.1%, the first negative result for the category since February 2021.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “This is a disappointing start to the most important part of the retail calendar.
“After a summer of sluggish retail sales growth, retailers would have been hoping for performance to pick up once we reached the Golden Quarter. However, like-for-like sales are continuing to trend downwards, as consumer confidence remains at near record lows.”