Shopping trips up by 3 per cent in December

SHOPPERS flocked to the high streets in December, despite claims of a poor festive period for retailers, according to new figures.

Ipsos’ Retail Traffic Index for the month recorded 2.9 per cent more shopping trips to non-food stores compared to December 2010 – the first time that a year-on-year increase has been seen since October 2009. The figure is 30.7 per cent up on November.

“After such a tough year for retailers, the need for a strong year-end was critical,” said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“News of heavy footfall is early evidence that Christmas trading was as brisk as anyone could have hoped for.

“Granted, some will say that 2010’s ‘deep freeze December’ makes for a soft comparator, but, in fact, the month-on-month increase in footfall is the strongest bounce in three years.”

The report showed that footfall leapt by 11.1 per cent – compared to the same period the previous year – in the first week of December, then fell to a much smaller rise before rocketing by 16.4 per cent in the week before Christmas.

The busiest Christmas shopping day turned out to be the second Saturday in the month – the same as in 2010.

“Memories of the white-out at the tail end of November into December 2010 prompted people to start their shopping early this Christmas,” added Mr Denison.

“The public sector strike on 30 November served as a further kick-start, with many stores reporting double digit growth that day. But the start of the month would not have been nearly as busy had retailers not embarked on their heaviest promotional campaigns we’ve seen in years, in a determined effort to fuel footfall and turn up trading.”

For 2011 as a whole, the volume of shoppers through non-food stores in the UK was 3.7 per cent down on the previous year.