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Customer Spending Increase Counteracts Footfall Decline
It has been widely reported that the high street has endured yet another disappointing Christmas as footfall and spend continue their downward trend. According to some reports, the issue appears to be deepening as Christmas Eve footfall fell as much as 10% compared with figures from 2018. Even the self-proclaimed Festive winners - Dixon's Carphone - had to reissue its Christmas trading figures after mistaking a 2% fall in sales for a 2% rise.

The Convenience sector however, remains defiant. Year-on-Year footfall figures from December show a drop in shopper visits of around 3% per store. Interestingly, increasing spend per customer managed to buffer this trend, producing a manageable fall of only 0.7% in terms of overall sales value.

A significantly stronger performance than seen in other parts of the retail sector which have seen sales diminished by online competition, economic uncertainty and changing consumer habits toward digital products such as coupons, experiences and downloads.
YOY Change in Footfall
East of England London & Sound East Midlands North of England Scotland South West Wales
-4.4% -2.3% -5.0 -2.8% -2.0% -2.4% -4.3

The Highs in the Lowlands

Despite the underwhelming overall Christmas performance, Scotland weathered the trend with regards to footfall (down only 2% compared to Christmas 2018) and bucked the trend completely with encouraging sales value (up over 2%). We've reported previously that convenience Alcohol sales in Scotland have been boosted by minimum unit pricing, contrary to its objective and there's no better time to see the effect of this than Christmas. In fact, Scotland was the only region to see any increase in sales above 1% with most stores in the UK being unable to break gains of 1%, or even make gains at all.
YOY Change in Footfall
East of England London & Sound East Midlands North of England Scotland South West Wales
-2.0% 0.1% -2.6% -0.4% 2.2% 0.2% -2.2

Disappointing but not Devastating

Despite doom-laden headlines in the national press, within the Convenience retail sector it's a more upbeat story. While there is an undeniable decline in footfall, people still need milk and bread, value a friendly face and appreciate a local service that reflects their geographical preferences. The 'one-size-fits-all' mantra of the big-box retailers, who have historically struggled against the rise of online rivals is not present in the decentralised convenience sector. Offering a service, range and experience that is impossible to replicate online is the best defence against the ever-increasing influence of online entrepreneurs.
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