For what feels like an eternity now, Christmas – and last year as a whole – has drawn headlines of footfall dropping on the High Street. 2018 was particularly difficult for retailers.
As usual, retail analysts Springboard gave a comprehensive review of Christmas nationally, and revealed some interesting outcomes.
Most fascinating is that store capture rate is falling further than high street footfall itself. Broadly speaking, this appears to reinforce suggestions that town centres are becoming ‘more than retail.’
This might also go some way to explaining why out-of-town retail parks and smaller shopping centres have fared even worse than the High Street, particularly if they’ve been less able to respond to changing demands.
Year-on-year comes with caveats
Christmas can prove quite difficult to compare year-on-year. For one, we are seeing a long-term shift towards November, both closer to Black Friday and towns’ seasonal events. When does the Christmas period really start now?
Christmas Day also shifts every year. This has an impact on how figures are counted.
In 2017, Christmas Day was on a Monday, and Christmas Eve had to endure Sunday trading hours. The 23rd December naturally stood out as an obvious ‘final’ big shopping day.
2018 Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday, so immediately we have a full extra weekday for shopping – Christmas Eve. And how many might have been tempted to take that day off to make a long weekend? The pressure would be off slightly for last-minute sales.
This also meant that an extra shopping day fell in Week 52 compared to the previous year.
A shift in shopping days means Week 52 2018 was likely better for you than in 2017, to the expense of Week 51 – where the sales pressure was a little relieved.
If this sounds like something you’ve heard from me before – it’s because this is so easily overlooked, not just at Christmas but at New Year, Easter and other Bank Holidays.
It reminds us that, while year-on-year and other benchmarks are a good reckoner of performance, we must always consider other factors and occasionally double-check our means of making comparisons.
What might replace year-on-year?
Truthfully, there is no easy answer to this. I don’t believe we can always reliably make comparisons on figures alone, and any method of comparison is likely to have its own caveats.
It’s probable that year-on-year is the very best we have – and that’s okay.
Benchmarking and year-on-year comparisons are crucial to seeing how we are changing. They consolidate our understanding of the high street into a very simple figure.
But this figure – important as it is – needs to be understood as part of a bigger picture. There are caveats, and anybody responsible for interpreting these numbers needs to bear this in mind.
Webinars and discussions, such as Springboard’s, demonstrate there is so much more detail behind a collection of figures. It’s always worth taking the extra time to learn about these rather than taking them at face value.