The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has voiced concern over the subdued footfall during the Christmas season, highlighting the challenges faced by shop owners throughout the year.

The insights come in the wake of the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor report for December 2023, revealing a decline in foot traffic across various retail locations.

December figures

The BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor report outlined a discouraging scenario for December, indicating a 5.0% year-on-year decrease in total UK footfall.

High streets reportedly experienced a 4.2% decline while retail parks and shopping centres faced decreases of 4.8% and 7.4%, respectively.

Bira’s perspective

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira, expressed disappointment in the figures, emphasising the challenging year for independent retailers.

“These footfall figures are very disappointing and confirm what a challenging year it has been for so many independent retailers. The only silver lining to this footfall cloud is the fact that high streets have done better than other locations, showing that people still prefer to visit shops on the high street.”

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In addition, Goodacre emphasised the role of the government in ensuring financial stability and economic growth. He underscored the importance of high streets in local communities and urged continued investment in these vital locations.

“As well as needing some luck with the weather, looking into 2024 we need the government to focus on improving consumer confidence. This can be achieved through ensuring financial stability and focusing on economic growth.”

BRC CEO’s insights and call to action

Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC CEO, attributed the decline in footfall to adverse weather conditions, with heavy rain deterring shoppers from physical stores.

“December’s heavy rain left many shoppers reluctant to brave the elements, who instead opted to browse online before making final purchases, or shop online altogether.

“This led to a substantial decline in footfall levels compared to December 2022, when there was significant pent-up demand for instore shopping post Covid restrictions.”

Looking ahead to a potential general election, Dickinson called for political parties to include a comprehensive plan for the retail sector in their manifestos.

“This plan must take account of the regulatory cost burden and broken business rates system which are limiting business investment and growth.

“Ways also need to be found to create thriving shopping destinations and drive customer footfall back up again in 2024.”