Ipsos’ Retail Traffic Index (RTI), the definitive metric of footfall entering non-food stores across all location categories in the UK, including high streets, shopping centres, retail parks and transport hubs, rose by 1.7% in April over March, but suffered a decline of 8.7% year-on-year. For the Easter fortnight (24th March to 6th April), 9.7% fewer shopping trips were made against the equivalent holiday period last year, making it the quietest Easter on record of the millennium for non-food store retailers.
The absence of sunshine and warm weather has resulted in a particularly slow start for the fashion sector merchandising its spring and summer collections. It has also discouraged browsers and delayed click-and-collectors picking up their purchases from stores.
However, as warmer weather begins to blanket the UK, shoppers across the country are expected to visit their local stores and be inclined to spend some of the money they have not been able to so far in 2013.
“It’s always a difficult picture to assemble at this time of the year, with the Easter period falling into different months,” explains Dr Tim Denison of Ipsos Retail Performance, “so we should not be alarmist about these latest RTI figures. We had expected to see more shoppers break out of their hibernation in April, as better weather had been forecast. However, our footfall data reflect that regeneration was very pedestrian and only really got going in the last few days of the month. Most noteworthy of all though is the poor showing at Easter and that is clearly reflected in the RTI in both March and April. 2013 will be remembered by retailers as ‘the year that Easter failed to deliver footfall to UK stores’.”
“It’s certainly been a jittery start to the year,” continues Denison, “with some retailers reporting double-digit sales growth and others double-digit decline. Sales and footfall trends are confounding each other, and generally national Key Performance Indicators offer confusing reading. They suggest that we have reached the bottom, but the bottom is not flat it is corrugated, paraphrasing Sir Martin Sorrell. Besides the sunshine having a positive impact, the other factor that will make all the difference is some stability in the statistics.
“Their stability should create growth, helping to soothe the hearts and minds of consumers. It is the relentless state of instability that has proved to be so damaging, particularly over the last 12 months. Many retailers are becoming increasingly buoyant about how they are set for the future. More consistency in the upticks and more positivity reported should breathe some extra confidence into the economy and give belief to consumers that they might be able to afford to shop and spend that little bit more. Let’s hope the reported rise in GDP for quarter one will be the start of that path to stability and put a spring in the step of shoppers.”
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