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Wet weather and the cost of living crisis combined to drive a sharp reduction in UK retail footfall over the Christmas period.

According to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data, total UK footfall decreased by 5% in December, compared to a much smaller 0.7% reduction in November.

Footfall figures were down across the board, with high street footfall down 4.2% from 1.7% in November, retail parks down 4.8% from 1% in the previous month, and shopping centre footfall down by 7.4% compared to a 2.2% reduction in November.

Of the UK nations, Scotland saw the least significant year-on-year drop in footfall, showing a decrease of 2.2%. Northern Ireland saw a year-on-year drop in footfall of 4.7%. This was followed by England and Wales, both at 5.8%.

“December’s heavy rain left many shoppers reluctant to brave the elements, who instead opted to browse online before making final purchases, or shop online altogether,” said Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium. “This led to a substantial decline in footfall levels compared to December 2022, when there was significant pent-up demand for in-store shopping post Covid-restrictions. Some cities, such as Edinburgh, bucked the trend, and saw footfall levels rise in December thanks to recent investment in new, exciting shopping destinations.

“With a general election on the cards later this year, we are calling for the political parties to set out a clear and cohesive plan for retail in their manifestos. This plan must take account of the regulatory cost burden and broken business rates system, which are limiting business investment and growth. Ways also need to be found to create thriving shopping destinations and drive customer footfall back up again in 2024.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, added: “One of the wettest Decembers on record combined with dampened consumer confidence and ongoing spending caution meant some retailers may have been left disappointed in last month’s footfall performance.

“While we saw festive glimmers of shopper traffic peaks in and around discounting days, such as Boxing Day when footfall improved 39.2% week on week, many may have been waiting for a last-minute Christmas trading rush that never came.

“There’s little doubt that the overall downward year-on-year trajectory in store visits in December – usually the crescendo of the golden quarter – will have come as a blow. Retailers will be hoping demand improves as inflation starts to ease and the impact of the inflationary spending squeeze on disposable incomes softens.”

Morning update

Asda has pledged to price match Aldi and Lidl on almost 300 core grocery products to sharpen its position as the lowest-priced full-service supermarket.

From today, Asda is price matching Aldi and Lidl on 287 comparable grocery products, and has reduced prices by an average of 17% to match whichever discounter has the lowest price on these products.

The offer includes household staples such as milk, bread, cheese, tea, coffee, fresh meat, fresh fruit & vegetables, baked beans, pasta, rice and breakfast cereals.

The Aldi & Lidl Price Match will run alongside Asda’s established customer value propositions, including Price Drop and Asda Rewards.

Asda said the initiative means customers can trust they are getting the best prices by shopping at the supermarket.

David Hills, Asda’s chief customer officer, said: “Asda has over 50 years’ heritage as the customer champion, and we understand we have an important role to play in local communities to help families get the most from their budgets. We have launched Aldi & Lidl Price Match to help them save both time and money.

“Our customers can trust they will get uncompromising value every day at Asda and George – on everything from food and clothing to homeware and Cashpot rewards, as well as the lowest prices on supermarket fuel. And because we know their time is as stretched as their budget, we’re making shopping with us as easy as possible – whether that’s in our large stores, our growing Asda Express convenience stores or online.”

Listed fmcg supplier Supreme plc has acquired the trade and assets of protein supplier FoodIQ UK from administration for £175k.

The acquisition provides Supreme with access to a purpose-built, state-of-the-art, accredited, automated contract manufacturing facility that opened only 18 months ago and cost almost £1.2m to build.

Supreme plans to keep the facility operational from its site near London and expects the facility will increase Supreme’s wellness manufacturing capacity by around 40%.

CEO Sandy Chadha commented: “We are delighted to have completed this acquisition, which provides our fast-growing Sports Nutrition & Wellness division with the manufacturing capacity required to meet growing demand.

“We have used FoodIQ in the past to manage capacity requirements in our Sports Nutrition & Wellness division so are familiar with their capability.”

Elsewhere today, Revolution Bars Group said it had traded positively over the important festive season, but is shutting eight bars due to cost pressures.

Group like-for-like sales for the four weeks from 4 to 31 December were up 9%, the best festive period since 2019.

Revolución de Cuba and Peach Pubs performed well, and whilst the Revolution brand traded positively on a like-for-like basis over the festive period, its guests continue to be disproportionately impacted by the current macroeconomic conditions.

The group said that, whilst it delivered a strong festive trading period, the macroeconomic trading environment continued to be challenging, and the prospect of the statutory 10.8% increase in the national living wage in April 2024 increases the challenge.

Consequently, eight of the Group’s least profitable bars will be closed to reduce future site losses. The closed bars are: Revolution Bars in Beaconsfield, Derby, Reading, St Peters Liverpool and Wilmslow; Revolución de Cubas in Sheffield and Southampton; and the Playhouse in Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

Negotiations for five of the eight bars had already begun for them to be transferred to other operators or their leases rescinded.

The group is currently working through redeployment plans to enable those team members affected to be offered alternative employment elsewhere in the Group. It will continue to operate 58 bars and 22 pubs.

Rob Pitcher, CEO of Revolution Bars Group, said: “We have had the best festive trading period for four years with all of our brands recording positive like-for-like sales and Revolución de Cuba being the standout performer.

“However, our younger customers are still feeling the disproportionate effect of the cost of living crisis and the national living wage will increase materially in April 2024. Therefore, we have taken the difficult yet ultimately beneficial step for the Group to close several bars which are unprofitable.

“Our teams do a terrific job in making guests welcome and giving them a great experience and again we have demonstrated that when our customer base can afford to do so, they are choosing to celebrate with us, and we have delivered record levels of guest satisfaction. This should bode well for the future.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 is down 0.6% to 7,673.6pts.

Risers this morning include Science in Sport, up 7.8% to 13.5p, Glanbia, up 2.6% to €15.18, and Greencore, up 1.4% to 98.5p.

Fallers include Diageo, down 2.3% to 2,744p, THG, down 1.6% to 72.9p, and Deliveroo, down 1.5% to 129.1p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 closed up 0.5% at 7,723.1pts yesterday to recover some of the lost ground from the first two days of trading in 2024.

Risers included Naked Wines, up 6.2% to 60p, Glanbia, up 5.7% to €14.80, McBride, up 3% to 88.6p, C&C Group, up 2.9% to 149.6p, Cranswick, up 2.4% to 3,902p, Fever-Tree, up 2% to 1,007p, and Sainsbury’s, up 1.6% to 308.2p.

The few fallers included Britivic, down 0.9% to 840p, Tate & Lyle, down 0.8% to 661.5p, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, down 0.8% to €60.50, and Bakkavor, down 0.7% to 84p.