Pedestrian counts declined by -3.1% on Boxing Day, the third consecutive year in which visitors on Boxing Day has been lower than in the year before, indicating the lessening in importance of Boxing Day as a trading day. Over the last few years ped counts on Boxing Day has consistently been around 10.0% lower than on Black Friday, and this year it was 10.7% lower. Pedestrian on Boxing Day was also 12.0% lower than on Saturday 22nd December, the peak trading day before Christmas.
Part of the reason for the drop in visitors is the almost continuous discounting that has been taking place by retailers this year - particularly over the period from Black Friday onwards - which negates the reason to defer purchases to Boxing Day, although clearly this is an opportunity for consumers to pick up items at an even lower price than before Christmas. However, many retailers offer greater discounts online than in store, which discourages shoppers to visit retail destinations and bricks and mortar stores.
The magnitude of decline was less than in the previous two years, but this was due to a smaller drop in pedestrians, which was virtually flat at -0.3% compared with -6.2% in 2017 and -3.6% in 2016. Many consumers who visited retail destinations on Boxing Day would have been doing so as part of a wider leisure experience, and the greater variety of restaurants and coffee shops in high streets enables shoppers to make the most of their trips and include lunch or coffee whilst shopping. Whilst the larger, newer centres have a good hospitality offer, smaller, older centres do not and so the options for eating out are very limited, which encourages shoppers into high streets. This is illustrated by the decline of just -1% in downtown visitors between 12pm and 2pm compared with -2.8% before 12pm. Drops in visitors of -4.7% in shopping malls and -6.5% in retail parks between 12pm and 2pm illustrate that shopping malls and retail parks weren’t able to capture lunchtime footfall so successfully.
Retail parks also worsened this year, with a drop that was three times as great as last year. At least part of this decline will have been a function of low consumer confidence which plays out in shoppers being less likely to spend significant sums on large household goods/furniture.