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Britain’s Boxing Day Falls Short, Weighed Down by Shopping Patterns and Brexit

Retail foot traffic fell 3.1 percent on Boxing Day in the U.K., declining for the third consecutive year, according to data from Springboard, a provider of insights on bricks-and-mortar retail activity.

Springboard, which tracks customers throughout the U.K. using automated technology, said this indicates the lessening in importance of Boxing Day for retail sales.

“Over the last few years, footfall on Boxing Day has consistently been around 10 percent lower than on Black Friday and this year it was 10.7 percent lower,” Springboard said in a report. “Footfall on Boxing Day was also 12 percent lower than on Saturday, Dec. 22, the peak trading day before Christmas.”

The report said part of the reason for the drop in traffic is “the almost continuous discounting that has been taking place by retailers this year,” especially on and after Black Friday, although Boxing Day is an important opportunity for consumers to pick up items at clearance prices.

“However, many retailers offer greater discounts online than in store, which discourages shoppers to visit retail destinations and bricks-and-mortar stores,” Springboard added.

The report surmised that many consumers who visited retail destinations on Boxing Day did so as part of a wider leisure experience, and the greater variety of restaurants and coffee shops on high streets enables them to enhance the experience.

Footfall at retail malls also worsened this year, with a drop three times as great as last year, Springboard noted. At least part of this decline will have been a function of low consumer confidence that plays out in shoppers being less likely to spend significant sums on large household goods. The U.K. economy has been shaky due in great part to the prolonged debate over Brexit that has caused political and social turmoil negatively affecting consumer confidence.

BBC News reported that retailers in London’s West End declared a “Boxing Day bounce,” with a 15 percent increase in traffic from last year. Shoppers on London’s Oxford Street told BBC News they came out for a bargain and to browse products in person rather than buying them online.

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics said in a recent report that online sales made up 21 percent of retail sales in November. Online retailer Asos said this month that in the U.K., the company continues to have strong sales growth but “this has been achieved at the cost of more promotional activity than initially planned and consumers buying into lower priced product. Consumer confidence is increasingly fragile.”