The latest data from the Retail Traffic Index, courtesy of analyst firm SPSL, shows that the number of people shopping throughout December was down 3.2 per cent compared to the same month in 2006 – worse than SPSL’s prediction of a 2.1 per cent drop.
The numbers are in stark contrast to November, where an increased number of pre-Christmas promotions saw footfall improve by 31.5 per cent compared to the same month in 2006.
“Christmas 2007 really was a stop-and-start, up-and-down rollercoaster,” SPSL’s Dr Tim Denison stated. “There were days in the run-up that were far busier than their equivalents in 2006, but there were just as many days that were hugely disappointing. This year, more than any other that I can remember, we were left guessing, right to the last day, how the final numbers would end up.
“The first three weeks of the month helped give reassurance that December would not be a total wipe-out, with shopper numbers broadly matching those of 2006, but nothing could be taken for granted. The final fortnight had its highlights, including a record number of shoppers on December 27th, but also suffered from some quiet days.
“In the wake of some discouraging economic trends, there was some concern that footfall numbers on the high street could stall this Christmas. Retailers had to be constantly on their mettle, reviewing performances and re-evaluating their strategies on a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour basis. Any slightest sense of a downturn was met by a change in tactics, particularly in promotional campaigns.
“Christmas 2007 will be noted both for its unpredictability but also for retailer responsiveness and their determination to get cash in the tills before the effects of the much-heralded ‘credit-crunch’ kicks in.
“In the end I think retailers will settle for the month’s RTI outcome. Final numbers weren’t quite as strong as we had hoped, but the outlook for Christmas had been far bleaker in late autumn. Over the next few weeks, as trading figures are announced, we shall see just how much margin retailers had to give away in order to engage the shopper.”