The high levels of pre-Christmas discounting and unprecedented one-day “spectaculars” failed to attract more shoppers to the high street in November according to the latest monthly research by Experian.
The study recorded a decline of 0.9 per cent compared to November 2007. Footfall in Scotland fell the most, with a -0.5% drop in shopper numbers.
“From a UK wide perspective, it seems efforts at deep discounting have failed to attract significant shopper numbers into the stores,” explained Experian director of retail consultancy Jonathan De Mello.
“The spectacular events held at the end of the month provided some spikes in shopper numbers but levels have quickly dropped back and, overall, shopper numbers are down on last November. Deep discounting by retailers may have also brought forward shoppers from December into November and set back the traditional Christmas rush by at least a week.
“It is possible that purchasers of major items will have held back until the Government’s lowering of VAT by 2.5 per cent takes effect. However, these are unprecedented times and it remains to see whether this new Government initiative translates into a boost in shopper numbers or higher consumer spending in the run up to Christmas.”
Experian also found that retail business failures rose 21% for non-food retailers in November including the demise of well-established brands like Woolworths and MFI, while they rose 50% for food-retailers.
At the same time UK Internet searches for discount vouchers increase by 133% over the last 12 months. Visits to voucher websites are up by 45% over the last 12 months.
During the three months ending 15 November, UK Internet users searched for over 20,000 different variations on the term ‘voucher’.
Robin Goad, director of research at Experian’s Hitwise, explained the rise, “A whole online sector has emerged to feed British consumers’ hunger for discount vouchers for everything from supermarket shopping and pizzas to discounts at high end department stores.
“One in every 200 visits to an online retail website now comes from voucher sites such as Hot UK Deals or My Voucher Codes, while ‘consumer revenge’ website MoneySavingExpert has become the first port of call for many consumers before heading out to the high street or shopping centre.
“Despite the economic downturn, we’ve even seen an increase in visits to restaurant websites, and much of that traffic is people looking for discount vouchers.”
Matthew Sherwood, Senior Economist at Experian added, “Retailers are quickly discovering what shoppers are already realising – that this downturn has much further to run. UK consumers will be watching their pennies closely in the year ahead and thus there is little relief in site. The cut in the rate of VAT does provide some help, but not for the expected reasons. With consumers staying out of the shops, many retailers are likely to hold on to the tax cut.”
Retail marketing campaigns will get “personal” as reaction to the sluggish economy says Marie Myles, director of marketing consulting at Experian’s Integrated Marketing division.
“The Christmas retail marketing battle will be won and lost in the ‘multi-channel’ arena this year. The tough trading conditions will see retailers focussed more than ever on their existing customers, instead of simply trying to attract new ones.
“This means that loyalty marketing campaigns will go into over-drive, where retailers look to entice regular customers into visiting their online and high-street stores with incentives over and above the current discount voucher phenomenon.
"The big winners this year will be the retailers that run personalised online and offline customer marketing campaigns with offers that appeal directly to what each of their customers want. Retail marketing this Christmas is going to get personal.”
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