Salisbury enjoyed a busy 2016 Christmas – December footfall in the city centre was up by 1.3% on the same period in 2015 and better than 2014. The busiest trading day was Saturday 3 December when 58,396 people were recorded as having visited the city centre and at 12noon the busiest time of day a footfall of 7,518.
The festive trading period is the most important part of the year for retailers, accounting for a large chunk of their annual sales and profit.
Nationally, according to the BRC Springboard footfall index, High-Street footfall rose for the first time in five years at Christmas, despite a negative picture for sales overall. Footfall rose 0.8% in the five weeks to the end of December. The high street was the only location type to draw in more shoppers than last year.
Locally, Jon Osgood, Salisbury Old George Mall Centre Manager says, “our footfall in the centre was also up. November and December started off a bit slow but after people got over Black Friday, trade recovered very well and our footfall turned out to be good, particularly as December developed, we are very pleased”.
Steve Godwin, Business Manager for the Salisbury BID says that Salisbury held its own well at Christmas. He says that national reports vary depending on who is reporting but the consensus seems to be that the high street had a mixed lead up to the festive period. Some stores nationally reported poor trading whilst others reported a small increase in sales. Out of town and on-line trading inevitably impacted on the period but overall, there was not a big move away from the high street and it could have been a lot worse. We feel that that the additional BID marketing outside the city contributed positively to both the high footfall in Salisbury and the good will feeling that the city had in the run up to Christmas. The Christmas Market was excellent and with its new and more open layout, attracted a lot of visitors. Every year we re-invent ourselves and for Christmas 2016, not only did people compliment us on the excellent quality of the Christmas Market but they also seemed to like its openness with the effect of making it feel more spacious. Our Events Manager, Steph Shearing attended many travel trade shows during the year and thus, we attracted over 300 coaches from all over the place and as far afield as Cardiff, Oxford and Birmingham. Our marketing as well as being local, was also further away and targeted places where people don’t always consider Salisbury as a destination. Nearly 70,000 Christmas cards were sent out to postcodes where we know people have disposal income and this seems to have worked well and had a positive impact. Thousands of Christmas maps were printed and given out to visitors as they arrived in the city, clearly identifying and signposting people to areas of retail, leisure and other areas of interest with the effect of moving people around Salisbury.
Local retailers including Debenhams have commented on how busy they were at Christmas and how the Christmas Market brought them custom. An independent survey commissioned during January by BID spoke to over 70 different traders in the city about the impact of the Christmas Market on their businesses. 60% said that it was either good or excellent, with many commenting on the variety of chalets and entertainment that made the market so special. Mr Godwin says that for 2017, the BID is already looking at different options and opportunities for the city and ensuring the Christmas Market and the marketing for the Salisbury remains alive and vibrant. Footfall is only part of the picture and as a city, there will always be a need for a physical retail presence. As the city develops however, we must appreciate that the customer visit should be an experience and more than just shopping. Whilst consumer loyalty may drive and sustain footfall, people often want more, perhaps to come in and have a coffee or a meal, to meet friends, to engage in other activities of which retail shopping is an overall and important part of. Salisbury is rising to that challenge!
The positive trend has continued into January 2017, and very recent information recorded by the BID footfall cameras and endorsed by BRC Springboard shows that Salisbury footfall was 11.8% up on January 2016. On Saturday 28th January, 46,112 people came into the city.