Business development · 4 January 2017

Low footfall on high streets marks a bad start to the year for small retailers

empty_high_street
Bad weather was cited as the main reason for low turnout on high streets on New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day marked a poor start to the year for Britain’s small independent retailers. The latest retail industry data has revealed a significant year-on-year drop in footfall on high streets at the beginning of 2017.

Footfall on high streets across the country declined by as much as 23.8 per cent on average compared with New Year’s Day 2016, according to figures from retail intelligence firm Springboard.

Bad weather was cited as the main reason for low turnout amongst shoppers, with reduced bank holiday trading hours and Christmas shopping spending sprees in December also hailed as determining factors.

Retailers in shopping centres across the UK appeared to have suffered the most, with a steep decline of 49.5 per cent year-on-year experienced compared with New Year’s Day in 2016, when shopping centres saw an increase in footfall of 9.8 per cent on average.

Springboard director Diane Wehrle claimed it was also highly likely that online shopping had a lot to do with consumers deciding to stay at home this year. “The ease and comfort of online shopping proved too enticing for shoppers keen to snap up further discounts in the sales rather than bracing the cold outdoors,” said Wehrle.

For retailers in the UK, New Year’s Day trading is often seen as a good indicator of how consumers will choose to spend throughout the first part of the year. “If this still rings true, the [retail] industry is set for a rocky 2017,” Wehrle warned.

The retail industry also recorded poor footfall on high streets throughout December, further emphasising the draw of online shopping in the lead up to Christmas.

More than 20,000 smaller UK retailers reportedly faced closure last month, as levels of “significant financial distress” peaked.

Weak Christmas trading forced thousands of business owners to slash prices to attract last minute shoppers and increase footfall, marking a 6 per cent year-on-year increase in levels of significant financial distress compared to 2015, according to figures from business recovery practice Begbies Traynor.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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