Published on 6 - January - 2010
Christmas footfall disappointing as Britain sees change in shopping behaviourFestive figures fall below expectations, as consumers opt to shop for themselves in the sales rather than buy gifts.
Figures from Synovate Retail Performance reveal that the number of shoppers in non-food stores over December saw a 5.5% year-on-year decline. This was far below the 1.8% increase Synovate had predicted for the month. Likewise the 27% rise against November was well below the 32.4% forecast.
Notably, the peak in store traffic just before Christmas has become less pronounced and a greater share of the month's footfall has been clocked up after December 25. Synovate analyst Tim Denison believes that this is driven by a change in shopping behaviour. "There are some signs that the strong shopper activity after Christmas was fuelled by a new type of shopper behaviour; the cult of self. The thinking seems to be; I've had a tough year, so now I'm doing a little bit of shopping for me."
Dr Denison explained that the footfall numbers were "very disappointing", especially compared with a weak December last year but that shoppers had also been discouraged or "caught out ' by wintry weather in the middle of the month. Meanwhile, lower levels of discounting this year meant "the waves of bargain hunters simply did not take to the streets before Christmas as they did in 2008 and before".
This year, for the first time since Synovate records began more than a decade ago, the week following Christmas - the week commencing December 27 - proved to be the busiest week of the month and of the whole year. Store traffic levels were up 4.1% compared with the last full trading week before Christmas, which is traditionally the number one traffic week of the year.
Dr Denison commented: "Given that retailers had not succumbed to starting their sales before Christmas, we knew that the last week of the year would be busy...Monday December 28 transpired to be the most crowded shopping day of the year, 1.2% busier even that December 19, the last Saturday before Christmas."
He added: "If what we have seen in 2009 is repeated next year, it might signify the end of December being all about buying gifts for others, building to a final crescendo before Christmas day and more about seeing a traffic peak after the 25th, with people spending heavily on themselves and their homes. At this stage it's too early to tell whether weekly events this December have been a one-off, affected by the downturn in the economy, or something more long-lasting driven by attitudinal changes; perhaps a new cult of self."
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