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High Street wins last-minute dash

By Retail Technology | Monday December 23 2013

Shoppers in control as they hit the shops during the last Christmas shopping days, while the online channel takes stock and prepares for the New Year sales

With only two days of shopping left before Christmas Day, retail footfall has now peaked, according to the latest figures compiled by the Retail Traffic Index. 

Supplied by Ipsos Retail Performance, the Index showed footfall in the week commencing 15 December climb by 12.4% against the previous week. Meanwhile Saturday 21 December was confirmed as the busiest High Street shopping day of the whole festive period despite the bad weather

Footfall was up that day by 3.7% on the previous Saturday, by 8.0% on Saturday 7 December, and by 21.9% on Friday 20 December. Footfall in food stores, however, is expected to peak today, Monday 23 December.

Last week was not, however, as busy as the final full week of trading in the run up to Christmas last year. Compared to the week commencing 16 December 2012, the Index figures showed that the week commencing 15 December 2013 was 3.0% quieter.

Tracking very close to expectations

“Shoppers’ behaviour this Christmas has tracked very closely to our expectations,” explained Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “Our data show that Christmas 2013 got off to a flying start, with shoppers eager to do some early gift buying, to take some of the strain out of Christmas at the end of a difficult year.

“Since then, while traffic has grown healthily week-on-week, there has not been the same clear water gap versus 2012. Shopper numbers are still stronger than December 2012 by 0.2%, but the margin is narrowing. We had expected the last weekend to have been busier than last year, particularly in light of the special events some retailers had launched, but it transpired to be 9.8% quieter. 

“Only 27% of non-food stores recording year-on-year growth. Some had dubbed it ‘panic Saturday,' but I sense that shoppers felt well under control over the weekend. With one extra day’s trading before Christmas this year, some may have decided to keep their final trip to the shops until the start of this week instead, believing that prices are set to fall further.”

Shoppers hold out for last-minute bargains

As well as playing the discount waiting game, those shopping online also proved traditional busy periods may no longer apply where the middle ‘Mega or Cyber Monday’ of the month was almost as busy as the traditionally busiest first online shopping Monday in December. This suggested that delivery options are improving sufficiently for customers to leave shopping to the last minute, whether off- or online or using click & collect services.

“There’s no such thing as a done deal in retailing,” commented Denison. “Every Christmas campaign these days seems to go down to the wire and this year is proving to be no different. Retailers will be generally satisfied with the pre-Christmas footfall status, but their attention will already have turned to their post-Christmas sales’ strategy. 

“I believe we will see some radically different executions, dependent upon how well trading has gone before Christmas, leftover stock levels and the buying plans for the sales. It will be fascinating to see how the final week of the year maps out.”

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