U.K. shopper numbers fell yesterday as discounting and mild weather failed to entice cost-conscious Britons to spend, according to market researcher Experian Footfall.
Visits to shops and malls fell 0.7 percent on Dec. 27, compared to the Tuesday after Christmas last year, Experian Footfall said by e-mail. Shopper numbers surged 21.5 percent on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, with extended hours helping boost business limited last year by Sunday trading restrictions. The four-day U.K. holiday weekend ended on a Tuesday in both 2010 and 2011.
Stores including Debenhams Plc (DEB), the U.K.’s second-largest department store chain, had price cuts of as much as 70 percent on items such as a 50-piece Christmas tree ornament set reduced to 4.50 pounds ($7). Gap Inc. (GPS), the clothing chain, had discounts of up to 60 percent in the U.K., alongside Comet, the electronics chain owned by Kesa Electricals Plc (KESA) offering a Prestige microwave cut to 87.99 pounds from 219.99 pounds.
“Although minus 0.7 percent looks like we’re struggling, it’s pretty much level and that’s a better performance than this year so far,” Neil Bennett, product manager at Experian Footfall, said by phone. Declines in customer numbers of about 1.6 percent have been typical this year through the middle of December.
The depth of discounting will put pressure on retailers’ margins, already hit by above-average temperatures, said Maureen Hinton, a retail analyst at Verdict Research. The U.K. has had “fairly widespread mild temperatures,” in contrast to the coldest December in more than a century in 2010, according to the Met Office.
“Shoppers did leave it to the last minute and it was worse because there was a lot more stock to begin with,” after mild weather held back pre-Christmas spending on winter clothing, she said. “Most people have just held off spending until after Christmas because they do know January sales will be good.”
Parts of London’s busy West End shopping district remain cordoned off today after an 18-year-old man was stabbed to death Dec. 26 outside a Foot Locker store on Oxford Street. The Metropolitan Police said 11 people have been arrested.
“It’s a very rare occurrence,” said Jace Tyrrell, a spokesman for the New West End Co. “Shoppers were stunned but we’re pleased with the way it was handled.”
Business has been slowing since Boxing Day, traditionally the busiest shopping day. The area, which includes Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street will take in about 100 million pounds this week, he added.
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