Warn­ing as shops fail to make up for lost rev­enue

South Wales Echo - - News - LIZ PERKINS Re­porter el­iz­[email protected]­line.co.uk

RE­TAIL­ERS can no longer rely on Christ­mas trad­ing to make up for rev­enue lost ear­lier in the year, a re­port sug­gests, as shop­per num­bers across Wales con­tin­ued to dwin­dle in De­cem­ber de­spite big dis­counts be­ing of­fered.

The WRC (Welsh Re­tail Con­sor­tium)-Spring­board foot­fall and va­can­cies mon­i­tor re­vealed 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 in Wales fell by 3.4% year-on-year in De­cem­ber – worse than the 2.6% de­cline wit­nessed across Bri­tain.

The bleak pic­ture marks six months of de­cline in Wales for firms – with only two months of the past 12 see­ing growth across the coun­try.

Foot­fall on the high street fell by 1.9%, 0.5 per­cent­age points above the De­cem­ber 2017 de­cline of 2.4%.

It was not just city cen­tres across Wales which suf­fered. Re­tail parks saw their foot­fall drop by 4.0%, a steeper de­cline than the 2.0% cent in De­cem­ber 2017.

Sara Jones, the WRC’s head of pol­icy and ex­ter­nal af­fairs, said: “It was a dis­mal De­cem­ber for Welsh high streets as shop­per num­bers wilted once again, for a sixth con­sec­u­tive month.

“Re­tail­ers had been hop­ing for pos­i­tive fes­tive foot­fall after a bruis­ing year, how­ever the fig­ures sadly paint a very dif­fer­ent pic­ture and re­tail­ers’ per­for­mance will have in­creas­ingly rested on their on­line of­fer­ing.

“With uncer­tainty over Brexit, and with Wales set to main­tain its po­si­tion of hav­ing the high­est busi­ness rates in Great Bri­tain, it looks like there will be lit­tle respite to some of the chal­lenges that the in­dus­try faces.

“The next few months will be make or break for many op­er­at­ing in our re­tail des­ti­na­tions, amongst all of the uncer­tainty we can be sure that dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions will be need to be made un­less we see a more sup­port­ive op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

Diane Wehrle, Spring­board mar­ket­ing and in­sights di­rec­tor, added: “The 3.4% de­cline in foot­fall in Wales 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.

“Fol­low­ing drops in Wales’s foot­fall of 2.3% in Oc­to­ber and 3.1% in Novem­ber in 2018, un­less the dy­nam­ics un­der­pin­ning con­sumer de­mand were go­ing to rapidly shift, it was al­ways go­ing to be un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect foot­fall to re­cover. Even in the third week of De­cem­ber, which was ad­versely im­pacted by snow in 2017, foot­fall also dropped by 4.3%. “

Ian Davis, di­rec­tor of Rules of Play, which is based in the Cas­tle Ar­cade in Cardiff, said as a small bou­tique store they had main­tained their place in the mar­ket, but there were cer­tainly fewer peo­ple hit­ting the shops in the count­down to Christ­mas.

He added “I would say we did the same in De­cem­ber as last De­cem­ber.

“The num­ber of peo­ple mooching around the ar­cade was less. Peo­ple are ner­vous over the Brexit sit­u­a­tion, and are more pru­dent.”

MARK LEWIS

Christ­mas shop­pers in Cardiff - but shops have faced a tough time

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