- October footfall was up by 65.9% on June and was back to almost two thirds of last year’s levels
- Average weekly footfall for the UK as a whole was higher in October compared to September by +3.2%.
- This was the fifth successive month following the re-opening of non-essential stores that overall footfall had gained momentum against 2019
- The RTI registered a further narrowing of the gap against last year’s levels from a deficit of -39.6% in September to -38.8% in October.
The latest footfall figures from Ipsos Retail Performance show that shopper numbers continued to improve for the fifth successive month in October before the announcement of a second national lockdown in England.
The Retail Traffic Index (RTI) showed that average weekly footfall for the UK as a whole was +3.2% higher in October compared to September. This represents a further narrowing of the gap against last year’s levels from a deficit of -39.6% in September to -38.8% in October, despite the imposition of the firebreak in Wales on 23rd of the month and the local lockdowns elsewhere in parts of England and Scotland.
Contrary to expectations, shopper numbers across non-food stores in the UK rose against September’s in the regions most affected by the restrictions. For example, in Northern England it rose by +2.1% and in the Midlands the gain was higher still, up +6.9% on the previous month, having improved for six weeks on the bounce.
Ipsos Retail Performance collects data from over 600 towns and cities across the UK, and for over 25 years its Retail Traffic Index has been the industry’s leading tracker of national, regional and sector retail footfall trends. It is also co-founder of the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank, offering thought leadership on the state of retail health and the future of retailing.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance said:
“The re-closure of non-essential stores taking place in England from 5 November is totally understandable and correct in terms of trying to contain the virus, but it is the last thing that retailers need, especially when people’s confidence to shop in the high street has steadily recovered over the past five months. This comes at a particularly important time of the year for retailers with the festive season fast approaching and Black Friday just around the corner – an eagerly awaited fixture on the retail calendar for the past decade.”
Ipsos Retail Performance had forecast that footfall during the week in which on Black Friday falls (the week commencing 22 November), would be the busiest of the year, with predictions of it being even higher than the week before Christmas. But for the first time in history, with the closure of non-essential stores in England at least, this will no longer be the case.
“Since March, retailers have known that they needed to invest in their online operational and marketing capabilities in order to be able to serve their customers remotely. The silver lining to the latest closures is that they have already scaled up and are more fit-for-purpose than ever before.
“They still face challenges though over fulfilment – both in terms of warehouse dispatch and home delivery services – which will struggle to meet the normal ramp-up of sales to Christmas, both online and in-store combined. Even if stores are allowed to re-open in December, social distancing and safety measures will prevent stores from being able to serve the usual crowds seen at this time of year.
“I agree with the British Retail Consortium’s advice to encourage people to begin their shopping earlier this year and to spread it out over the weeks rather than leave it to the last minute. Any steps that consumers can take to flatten the demand curve over this peak trading period should be encouraged. The last thing families want this year of all years is to suffer disappointments from presents failing to arrive in time for Christmas, and the last thing retailers want is to let their customers down.”
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