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News - 30 December 2006

Was it a good Christmas for Brighton?

Retail analysts and retailers themselves were somewhat divided as to whether Christmas 2006 would be a good one. Early indications would suggest that Brighton has not done badly compared with the rest of the country.

Back in November the banks and credit card companies were predicting a bumper Christmas meanwhile Experian (who owns Footfall) was more pessimistic saying that it would be slower to take off and less lucrative than last year.

The CBI on the other hand spoke to retailers and found that 47% of them expected to do better than last year while 22% expected to do worse.

It might be too simplistic to draw the conclusion that the banks are basing their predictions on spending whereas Experian is making its predictions on the number of people passing through the high streets. But less people needn’t always mean less money in the till.

Local studies have shown that a decrease in footfall doesn’t always equate to a decrease in takings in fact on occasions the complete reverse has been observed.

The Internet has an important part to play in this confusion. Firstly people are doing their Christmas shopping online in serious numbers now. Secondly even the people who still come into town to make their purchases have in many cases already done their research online. This means they are often on a quick ‘in and out’ type of mission with a clear agenda and a tight schedule. So spending could be up while footfall is down.

It may well be that the retailers in the CBI study who expect do better than last year are the ones who also sell online or at least have a significant and effective web presence. Whereas those who don’t perhaps should expect to do worse.

In the weeks running up to Christmas national footfall averages have been down on last year. However, Brighton has been buzzing and Churchill Square (where Footfall cameras are installed) has bucked this trend all the way showing consistent year on year growth every week.

In the North Laine many shops had sold most of their stock by Christmas and didn’t need to open for the days between the holidays when the bargain hunters took the city by storm.

These are good signs that Christmas trading has been better than expected. But the proof of the pudding is of course in the eating and we would be very interested to hear from retailers when they have made the vital calculation (please send a message to to let us know whether or not you think it has been a good Christmas for Brighton retailers).

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