With many food and drink manufacturers relying on key festive sales, it was unclear on Christmas Eve how an increase in online shopping would offset lower high street footfall due to the storms ravaging much of Britain.
High street sales fell by 7% on Monday December 23 but sales in retail parks rose by 3.2% and at shopping centres by 7.2%, as shoppers chose sheltered locations for their last-minute Christmas shopping.
On Saturday December 21 and Sunday December 22, footfall fell by an average of 3.8% across all outlets: high streets, shopping centres and retail parks, compared with the same days last year.
‘A bad hand with Christmas trading’
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “High streets have been dealt a bad hand with Christmas trading this year, as consumers have chosen to head to destinations away from the wind and rain.
“Over the past two weeks, retail parks have stood out, although over December as a whole, shopping centres have performed best year-on-year. It is only really this last week that has been particularly tough for high streets. They outperformed both shopping centres and retail parks early on but inevitably have fallen victim to adverse weather conditions.”
The only region to experience an increase in both year-on-year and week-on-week footfall were retail parks in the East of England. They saw footfall rise by 3.7% year-on-year last week and by 2.5% week-on-week.
In November, grocery think tank IGD predicted that shoppers would spend £19bn on food and drink over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Blighted by the weather
Last year sales in the weekend before Christmas were also blighted by the weather – in the form of heavy snowfalls. High streets tumbled 5.2% year-on-year, while sales at shopping centres dropped by 3% and at retail parks by 1.7%.
Springboard also identified a surge in online sales as a factor contributing to fewer consumers deciding to battle the Christmas crowds.
In November, online sales accounted for 11.9% of total sales – excluding fuel in November – according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
It remains to be seen how the weather will affect festive bargain hunters after Christmas.
Meanwhile, the storms have claimed four lives and thwarted the Christmas travels plans of thousands.