Archive for June, 2010

HEADCOUNTS to gauge FOOTFALL past our shops.

I took 5 minute counts on the hour, every hour, on a Friday and Saturday in early May.  I chose May because it is a very average time for retailing.  Children are at school so not many people are away on holiday.  Weekenders tend to stay put because it is revision time for most under 20s.  I chose dry warm days for maximum output.  I counted children as well as adults (because they are effectively consumers) passing both ways on both sides of the street.

According to American research shoppers can be categorised into 5 types:

  1. Basic
  2. Apathetic
  3. Destination
  4. Enthusiasts
  5. Serious


Footfall is low and steady throughout the day with a rise on Friday evening.  The Saturday average (16) is only 4 up from the Friday average (12).   The trade directories from the past show WHL served the local community for daily goods and it was probably much busier.  But over the years demand has changed and WHL’s mix of shops has adapted to these changes.  For whilst the actual footfall is low; the cafés, hairdressers, cleaners etc were clearly doing a good trade.  WHL is catering for the “destination” shopper.  They aim for one shop in particular.  They do not tend to be browsing. The cat is taken to the Vet, a small family party arrives to have lunch at Annie’s, a pet dog is taken into the Waggery.  Indeed the window displays demonstrate this.  They are not elaborate but inside mouth watering temptations greet the eye.

The evening rise in footfall on Friday can be explained by commuters and a number of the convenience shops stay open to catch this trade.


Footfall here is higher but remarkably steady, except for a rise to almost double in the evening.  And like WHL there is little difference between Friday (average 25) and Saturday (average 28).  Here the bus stops affect the head counts and the shopper can be categorised as “basic”.  They are picking up items they need immediately (newspaper, cigarettes) or items they have forgotten (milk, wine).  Cleary the rush hours increase footfall and almost all of the shops stay open, literally all hours, to catch that trade.  There is an element of destination shopping in the cafés, restaurants, hairdressers and the Post Office because it offers a wide range of services like car tax.


The peaks are in the morning.  This is partly related to peoples’ shopping habits.  Retirees seem to like to shop early, from 8.00 onwards.  The peaks at 10.a.m. noon and 3.00.p.m. are related to mothers, either after dropping off or collecting children from nursery school or school.  There was a 60% increase in shoppers between Friday and Saturday.  The Farmers’ market may help to explain why footfall is higher here on Saturday mornings than anywhere else in Barnes.  If that is the case, the results of my earlier shopper questionnaire at the market suggested they are not buying!  Some shoppers can be defined as “basic”, those going into One Stop and the Parish bakery for example.  Others are destination shoppers, heading straight for Les Petits, the Kitchen Shop, Presents and our Jewellery shops for a celebration.  The food and fashion shops would suggest some shoppers are “serious”, seeking special foods and brand names.

Station Road has the highest footfall of all on Saturday morning (average 70).  This is clearly related to the farmers market, the occasional bric a bac market and the retail activities at Rose House.  So this is the spot for advertising and pushing promotions!


The results are very similar for these two sections of Church Road.   The average for Friday was 30 and 32 respectively.  On Saturday it was 38 for both.    Saturday is only slightly busier than Friday.  On the Friday both sections show the same peaks and troughs relating to the school day.  The type of shopper is different though.  Church Road (Common) attracts the “basic” shopper type going to Londis, Two Peas in a Pod or Village Klean.  But, because they are local people they often meet acquaintances or friends and then become enthusiasts, stopping for a coffee or to look in the fashion shops.

Some of the footfall at the Church Road (Olympic studio) end can be explained by the Red Lion bus stops and the activities (especially on Saturday mornings) at Barn Elms and St Paul’s.  Having dropped off children for sport there is then a relaxing period in which to shop.  This might be browsing but I have a feeling it is still destination shopping, where the customer knows what they want and visits the one shop to get it.


Footfall is usually a good indicator of locational advantage in larger shopping centres, so much so that planners plant “anchor stores” (such as M and S) in corners or at the end of long linear pathways in order to attract shoppers and thereby increase footfall past smaller shops.

Barnes however bucks the trend.  Its shoppers have come to rely on the shops they know.   Whether it be for convenience goods and services or specialist items, they target their destination shop and go directly to it.  The problem is the local shopper is a fair weather friend – literally and metaphorically.  Throughout January shops might as well have closed because of the weather, August is dead, Easter is quiet and numbers are totally unpredictable.  As a consumer, for example, I have found my favourite restaurant might be unable to accommodate me on one Saturday and empty the next.

We desperately need a higher footfall.  These were comparisons all taken at the busiest places for 5 minutes.

Barnes St Margarets Whitton Richmond
Wed 7th April 36 65 74 91
Fri 9th April 42 96 120
Sat 10th April 66 132 132

Marketing Barnes as a whole may attract more visitors which may attract more browsers.  To do this we need better signage, having a tourist information centre and filling empty shops to widen choices.

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