Boxing Day sales: Number of in-store shoppers falls for third consecutive year as concern for UK high street grows

Analysts say decline in footfall indicates lessening importance of holiday as trading day

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 26 December 2018 23:14
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Crowds of shoppers take to Oxford Street in central London as Boxing Day sales take place all over the country
Crowds of shoppers take to Oxford Street in central London as Boxing Day sales take place all over the country

The number of shoppers heading to stores on Boxing Day fell across the UK for the third year in a row.

Although 26 December remains a popular shopping day, average footfall in high streets, retail parks and shopping centres across the UK for the period up to 4pm was 3.1 per cent lower than for the same hours on Boxing Day 2017, retail intelligence specialists Springboard said.

This is a more modest drop than the 5.5 per cent fall seen between 2016 and 2017 and on par with the drop of 3.3 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

Springboard said footfall in high streets declined by 1.1 per cent, which is a much better result than last year and in 2016 (6.6 per cent in 2017 and 2.8 per cent in 2016).

The experts said this is likely due to the wider variety of restaurants and coffee shops in high streets than those generally located in shopping centres.

Shopping centre footfall up to 4pm was down 5 per cent on last year, and out of town footfall at retail parks was down 5.3 per cent.

The analysts said a decline in footfall on Boxing Day on three consecutive years indicates the lessening in importance of the holiday as a trading day.

Springboard said: “Across the UK footfall did vary, with footfall actually rising in a number of areas; Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Greater London.

“In all other parts of the UK footfall declined from last year, with a particularly large drop in the southeast of minus 12 per cent.

“This may well be due to the proximity to the southeast of Greater London, and many shoppers taking the decision to visit the West End of London as a Christmas treat rather than shopping destinations closer to home.”

Chris Daly, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said: “The quiet high streets across the country confirm that the days of setting the alarm to be first in line for the Boxing Day sales are long gone.”

Despite footfall being down overall around the UK, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, representing businesses in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: “In London’s West End we have seen a Boxing Day bounce, with footfall up 15 per cent this morning.

“International tourists are out in force driven by the weaker pound, as well as domestic shoppers who are looking for a day out after family celebrations yesterday.”

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High street retailers had already cut prices after trading on the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed “Super Saturday”, failed to lure shoppers to stores.

It has been a difficult year for retailers, with notable high street names such as Poundworld and Maplin falling into administration, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams announcing plans to shut stores, while Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory issued profit warnings.

High street retailers have been battling higher costs, low consumer confidence as shoppers rein in spending amid Brexit uncertainty and people increasingly shop online rather than visit bricks-and-mortar stores.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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