Retailers can no longer rely on Christmas trading to make up for revenue lost earlier in the year, a report suggests, as shopper numbers on the high street continued to dwindle in December despite big discounts being offered.
Those behind the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor said retailers should not ignore the warning signs of sales bonanzas failing to stimulate customer activity.
Discounting “is severely eroding the strength of Christmas as a major trading period”, the report said.
The latest report found that footfall fell by 2.6 per cent year-on-year in December – marking the 13th month in a row of declines.
Shopper numbers on the high street, in retail parks and in shopping centres were in decline in December.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The 2.6 per cent decline in footfall in December 2018 – the ninth in 10 years, and the seventh consecutive year of decline – is undeniably strong evidence that retailers can no longer rely on Christmas trading to redeem revenue lost earlier in the year.”
She continued: “If nothing else is learnt from December 2018, it is that discounting does not stimulate customer activity, and is severely eroding the strength of Christmas as a major trading period.
“Ignoring the warning signs and continuing to bring sales forward undermines profitability and, ultimately, longer-term innovation in retailing.”
Footfall on the high street declined by 2.1 per cent year-on-year, marking five consecutive months of weakening for this shopping location.
Retail parks had a similar fate, with December footfall 2.1 per cent lower than a year earlier.
Footfall in shopping centres declined by 3.9 per cent - with this location having now seen 21 consecutive months of declines.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “The December results conclude a difficult year for retailers, with footfall dropping by 2.6 per cent over the year.
“This continued drop, now on to its 13th month, continues to put pressure on bricks-and-mortar stores up and down the country.
“It comes at a time when retail is in the midst of a transformation, investing in technology and the online offer, as well as offering more experiences in physical shops.
“This is evolving many high streets into a destination for wider services, as well as shopping.”