November sees a recovery in store footfall, but Black Friday loses momentum

If further evidence was needed that Black Friday has altered shopping patterns over the Golden Quarter, then this year’s store footfall data provides it.

Ipsos Retail Performance, the global retail and footfall consultant, compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

New RTI figures reveal that seasonal spending was only marginally pulled forward with the advent of Black Friday, where footfall in non-food stores was down by -2.1% on last year, compared to a rise of +0.9% in 2016. Numbers over the whole Black Friday week fell -3.8% short of 2017, though it still delivered a +19.6% boost on November’s previous week.

“Black Friday received the blue rinse treatment in the UK this year, as it lost its appeal and showed its age,” said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“The event is widely regarded by British retailers as one of the worst things to have come out of the United States, culling October sales and undermining consumers’ willingness to pay full prices, at a time when they are supposed to be ready to loosen their purse-strings for the Christmas splurge,” Denison continued.

The one sector that swam against the tide was clothing and footwear, where store footfall over Black Friday was up by +5.8% on last year, which was largely driven by significant discounting.

In the weeks prior, footfall plummeted by -7.4% in October, compared to the same month in 2017, sparking fresh concerns about the sluggishness of consumer retail activity and spending confidence.

However, November’s figures are much stronger, as average weekly footfall has been in recovery, year-on-year. November is down by only -4.2%, resuming the course that had been set in August and September, when levels were -4.1% and -4.4% respectively. Month-on-month, the RTI also shows footfall levels to be up by +8.1%; its strongest uplift on October in five years.

“All the attention now turns to the most important month of the retail calendar, conjecturing whether the spirit of Christmas will vanquish over the behemoth of Brexit,” Denison added.

“Our early store footfall forecast in the non-food sector will fall by just -3.6% year-on-year, the smallest decline in any month since July 2017. As in recent years, most festive in-store shopping is expected to be squeezed into the last week before Christmas.”

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