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Visits to shops fall in November: BRC

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Fewer people visited shops last month in the run up to peak trading when compared to both the previous month and the same month in pre-pandemic 2019, the latest figures suggest. 

UK footfall during the month was two percentage points (pp) lower than in October and fell by 15.7% compared to the same time in 2019, according to November figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Sensormatic Solutions. On Black Friday itself, 23.4% fewer people visited shops than on the same day in pre-pandemic November 2019, but 35.3% more people went out to shop than did on the previous weekend.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, says: “Footfall figures slipped back slightly on last month, as the harsh November weather deterred some customers from shopping instore. While footfall over the Black Friday weekend failed to match its 2019 levels, this year saw deals spread over the entire month, allowing customers to bargain hunt over a prolonged period. Nevertheless, this month’s footfall was still comparatively strong at the second highest figure for this year, only second to October. London also started to catch up with other major cities as the Christmas lights and markets kicked off the festive season, whilst Northern Ireland consumers benefitted from the High Street voucher system.

Visitor numbers were lower across all locations, compared to both the previous month and 2019. Footfall at shopping centres was 1.2pp lower than the previous month, and more than a third (34.8%) lower than the same time two years ago, while on high streets the figure was 1.3pp below last months rate, and 19.6% down on November 2019. On retail parks, footfall was 3.7pp lower than last month and 4.1% lower than in 2019. 

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, says: “We saw a slight footfall falter in November, with shopper traffic taking a nominal dip on October’s figures, however, it’s worth remembering that this is only the second time in the whole of 2021 that we’ve seen a monthly slowdown in the High Street’s recovery, as consumer confidence continues to grow and the resurgence in bricks-and-mortar builds back, slowly but steadily.

“Usually, in November we’d expect to see a boost to the High Street due to Black Friday, which traditionally marks the start of Christmas spending.  However, whilst we saw footfall rise by a third (+35%) week-on-week, shopper numbers on Black Friday were still down on pre-pandemic levels by about a fifth, which maybe down to polarised flux in Christmas shopping behaviours we’re witnessing.  Those who have bought early in a bid to avoid crowds and minimise risks of supply chain disruption have shopped even earlier this year, contributing to October’s boost and November’s lull; meanwhile we still expect to see those ‘last minute’ shoppers hitting the High Streets in December.”

Dickinson called on shoppers to wear face masks in shops in coming weeks, following recent changes to the law. “With new legal requirements on face coverings now in force in England, we ask shoppers to be considerate of one another and wear a face covering when in store,” she says. “Retailers are playing their part by encouraging face coverings through store signage and other announcements. However, it is vital these new rules do not put shopworkers in harm’s way and enforcement of face coverings must remain the duty of police and local authorities. Retailers are doing everything they can to satisfy their customers, prioritising the food and other products necessary for everyone to make the most of the festive season.”

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