Footfall in December was 0.7% down on a year ago, up on the 2.4% fall in November and below the three-month average of a 1.3% decline, according to the British Retail Consortium/Springboard Footfall Monitor.
Out-of-Town reported the only rise, 1.3% higher than a year ago and has experienced positive footfall growth for every month in 2014. Footfall in shopping centres was 0.1% down on the previous year for December. This is the lowest fall in footfall since Jan-14.
All regions and countries with the exception of South East (3.4%), East (2.2%), Scotland (1.6%) and Northern Ireland (1.4%) reported declining footfall.
BRC director general, Helen Dickinson, says: "A decline of 1.8 per cent in the number of high street shoppers might not at first glance look like great news for retailers but it’s heartening to see the pace of decline in High Street footfall slowing so dramatically from November to December. This is undoubtedly a result of the continuing changes in the way we all prefer to shop.
"It’s worth noting that fewer shoppers doesn’t necessarily equal poorer sales – in fact, we know that sales have been strong across the Christmas period. This tells us that retailers are getting to grips with the way people’s shopping habits are changing and using methods like click-and-collect to drive internet traffic toward physical stores while, at the same time, targeting discounts to encourage higher sales. What we are seeing currently is the online and physical retailing finding out how they best fit together in the new multi-channel world."
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, says: "Footfall across the UK in December belied the prevailing furore over the impact on bricks and mortar stores of both Black Friday and the move to online shopping, with just a modest drop of 0.7 per cent from December 2013. Retail Parks finished the year as they began with an increase in footfall, albeit that the increase in footfall in out of town locations has been on a downward trajectory since the largest rise of 5.7 per cent was recorded in January.
"The most positive result, however, is that footfall in both high streets and shopping centres is in an improved position compared with both November and with December last year. Indeed, the drop in high street footfall of 1.8 per cent is half the decline recorded in December 2013 and the 0.1 per cent drop in shopping centres is both a significant improvement on the 1.5 per cent recorded in December last year and the most modest decrease of any month this year.
"Whilst online shopping becomes ever more mature and shoppers are increasingly demanding in terms of choice and flexibility to buy, the improved footfall position of our retail destinations in what is our peak trading period of the year indicates that online is driving activity back into bricks and mortar stores. As yet it is inconclusive as to the relative influence of showrooming and click and collect in the omni-channel experience but what is clear is that if retailers want shoppers to continue to visit their stores then ever more investment is required to deliver the heightened shopping experience that is now demanded."
Country and Region Footfall Analysis
Footfall across the UK in December averaged (-0.7%). Only two regions in England reported positive footfall – South East (3.4%) and East (2.2%).
Scotland experienced the greatest rise in footfall, reporting a rise of 1.6% on the previous year. Northern Ireland experienced a rise of 1.4% in footfall after a 0.7% fall the previous month, while Wales reported a footfall decline of 0.4%.