Footfall and consumer confidence up but retail bosses cautious for year end

Footfall improved across all retail sites in November but retail bosses are concerned that may not be enough to ease the pressures on retailers at a challenging time.

The latest figures from the BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor showed that total UK footfall across all retail sites fell by 0.7% year on year ­– an improvement of 5.7% over October.

For retail parks the footfall was down 1% year on year and up 4.6% on October, in shopping centres it was down 2.2% year on year and up 7.3% on October, while on high streets footfall was up 1.7% year on year and up 4.6% on October.

The BRC flagged this up as an early sign of an early recovery in footfall and attributed the improvement to easing inflation and improving consumer confidence.

Commenting on the figures, British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “A slight uptick in consumer confidence, as well as easing inflationary pressures and more predictable weather, led to an improvement in footfall compared to the previous month. After a slow October start, the month-long Black Friday sales helped to get shoppers out to their town and city centres. While all parts of the UK saw footfall drop in October; both West Midlands and Yorkshire managed positive growth in November.”

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson

The GfK Consumer Confidence Index for November showed that the index was up six points to -24 from -30 in October and -44 in November 2022. Its Major Purchase Index was also up, by 10 points over October and from -38 in November last year.

Dickinson added: “The extensive cost-pressures on the retail industry over the last two years have limited investment and driven up prices at many shopping destinations. The Chancellor’s failure to commit to a business rates freeze in his recent Autumn Statement will inflict hundreds of millions of pounds in additional costs. This will inevitably slow the decline in inflation, as well as limiting long term investment and limiting any upside from improvements in UK footfall.”

At the British Independent Retailers Association, chief executive Andrew Goodacre was also cautious that the latest footfall figures were necessarily cause for optimism.

Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre

He said: “Although the footfall was better than October, it is still down year on year. Thousands of independent retailers are concerned about trading in run up to the all-important festive period. Spending depends on consumer confidence, and for that we need stability. Inflation is falling so we must not increase interest rates any further so that consumers can confidently budget their expenditure. Finally, tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and we really hope this super event will bring out the shoppers to their local independent retailers.”

Speaking on behalf of Sensormatic Solutions, who collaborate with the BRC on the Footfall Monitor, retail consultant Andy Sumpter said: “Despite disruption from Storm Ciaràn earlier in the month, November’s footfall rallied, buoyed by Black Friday trading and retailers offering extended discounts to spark early Christmas spend and secure festive share of wallet.  Last month, footfall recovered to its highest performance levels since July, however, it’s worth noting that, while welcome, this recent boost to retailers has been driven by price and promotions sensitive shopping behaviours. 

“Discounting events have proved a major draw, with footfall on Black Friday rising +52.4% week-on-week for example.  We have also seen that improvements in total retail footfall last month were significantly shored up by outlet store visits, as consumers try to make spend go further.  Undoubtedly, footfall’s recovery in November will allow retailers to look ahead to Christmas trading with more confidence, but the challenge will be not just encouraging ongoing spend into December when disposable incomes remain squeezed, but also ensuring discounting is optimised to protect margin.”

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