The summer is here and as a furniture store owner perhaps this is the time of year where footfall dwindles as consumers turn their attention to holidays rather than home investments. That being said, there will be some out there that have decided to stay put or even some holiday makers that get drawn into a new piece of furniture – if you can offer nationwide delivery of course.
At the time of writing this blog, the latest footfall figures suggest mixed reading. Have a sip of coffee or two while you digest this. According to the latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker for the week ending 16 July 2023, footfall was flat, increasing by a blip of +0.3% compared to the same week last year. Shopping centres recorded the highest footfall growth, climbing by +3% as retail parks saw a slight increase of +0.3%. High street footfall, however, declined by -1.0% compared to the equivalent week in 2022. Homeware sales during this period declined by 1.38%.
Roll on a week later and footfall improved, mainly due to being the first weekend of school holidays across much of the UK. Overall footfall grew by +2.9%, with shopping centres seeing the highest growth at +4.1%, while footfall on the high street and retail parks increased by +2.7% and +2.2% respectively. In this dataset, for the week ending 23 July 2023, Homeware like-for-like sales rose by +6.02%, offsetting a negative base of 4.38% for the same week last year. Store sales for homeware soared by +20.42% from a base of +1.63% for the same week last year, denoting the category’s twenty third positive result so far in 2023 and its highest since the third week of March. This shows there are some wins out there in the category.
However, the final week of July saw Homeware sales drop -3.75%, marking the category’s twenty-second negative result so far in 2023. Overall footfall increased by +1.5% compared to the corresponding week last year, with shopping centres and retail parks up by +3.7% and +2.3% respectively, while footfall growth on the high street was completely flat.
As for the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) footfall data for July 2023, total UK footfall increased by 1.8% against the prior year. High street footfall increased by 1.6%, while retail parks saw footfall increase by +1.4%. Shopping centre footfall increased by 0.2%.
One thing both datasets agreed on was that the warmer weather did provide a boost in footfall, but for furniture store owners, this boost was probably aimed at the beach. Another point to note is how shopping patterns are still finding a new balance, as the high cost of living is affecting people’s habits and choices. This means that giving a consumer a reason to shop or just pop in will have a greater effect on their behaviour. Last month we talked about promotions, and this certainly applies here. But before a consumer can take advantage of a promotion – or even see it – when this time of year is focused around holidays and trips out to enjoy the summer sun, you must get them into your store.
So, how to drum up footfall?
For local independent furniture retailers, one advantage you have is how flexible you can be with collaborations. Think about what locations around your town might have the highest footfall during the summer (or the even throughout the year!). Here are some examples:
This may be seen as an obvious choice, but pinpoint independent eateries from sit-ins to food trucks, and see if a collaboration can be explored. This could be in the form of asking if they can share leaflets or flyers on your latest promotions, or if one of their customers brings in a receipt, they get a discount in your store and vice versa.
Perhaps your focus could be on what’s around locally, from the nearby beach to other experiences where consumers could go. Do your homework and see what’s about and try to forge a relationship with that place. It’s all about putting your name out there, even if it costs you a little bit to sponsor an attraction.
Independent holiday homes
For people taking a break, some will stay with local holiday home providers. Why not reach out to them and see if you can place some promotions in their property. Better yet, why not offer to donate an item of furniture or offer a discount? Then when people stay, tag the item of furniture and suggest that if they want it for their own home, come and see your store etc.
The big screen
I’ll save the best for last, in my opinion. I think it’s fair to suggest that most people and families will take a trip to the cinema, probably more than once, during the summer period. Having worked in an independent cinema back in the day, it was a potential gold mine for local partnerships. Advertise on the screen pre-show, sponsor through their socials, or leave promo flyers around the cinema. The options are there and if you can strike up a good balance, it can be a cost effective way to get in front of many potential customers.
Whatever the approach, being proactive when quieter periods are upon the trade can be a big help in boosting business. Time is spent far better looking for solutions and ways to drive traffic in store, rather than standing at the door, wondering when business will pick up.
How is footfall at your business during the summer? And what are you doing about it?