• Footfall in non-food stores in the UK fell by just -0.5% year-on-year in January according to the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), produced by Ipsos Retail Performance, the retail insights company.
• This was attributable to a particularly strong showing in the first fortnight of the month (29th December to 11th January) when footfall volumes rose +2.2% on the previous year.
• Ignoring monthly performances influenced by changes to the timing of Easter, this was the strongest year-on-year result since January 2016.
• Against December, average weekly footfall fell by -24.6%, the smallest January drop since 2011.
• For the second consecutive month, year-on-year footfall rose in stores in London and South East England.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance said:
“Against our forecast of -1.9% and after such a disappointing December, January’s footfall comes as both a relief and a surprise. The better-than-expected result lends weight to other recent metrics, such as the PMI, indicating an encouraging start to the economy in the new year.
“Few within the retail sector are expecting the ride in 2020 to be any less bumpy than in the previous three years, despite consumers having a stronger financial footing. After the general election result and the call heeded to ‘Get Brexit Done’, some might argue that evidence is building that clarity has brought confidence and with it a ‘Boris Bounce’.
“Looking carefully at the Ipsos RTI data, I’ve interpreted January’s results in a different way. Footfall growth came when the winter sale promotions were in full flow and the best bargains were to be had. Aware that pre-Christmas sales had been poor, shoppers wasted little time in seeking out great offers after the holidays. While there may have been some pent-up demand released in January, and perhaps a little more still to come, a retail resurgence is not on the cards in 2020. Business conditions will remain similar to last year and consumer behavioural change will be slow.
“UK retailing is at a fascinating crossroads. Many of the experienced retailers are making way for new blood. It is the time for executives to make and implement New Year’s resolutions. Just as we, as individuals, reflect at this time of the year on the year gone and the year ahead, and consider making changes to put right personal failings or tackle things that we don’t like about ourselves, so retailers would be well served by doing likewise.
“Market conditions will not change in 2020, so it is time to find new directions, facilitated by new blood and new energy, in order to prosper. Challenging old truisms with objective, current facts will be forefront in making great business decisions in the months to come.”
ABOUT THE RETAIL TRAFFIC INDEX (RTI)
The RTI, published by Ipsos Retail Performance is regarded as the national benchmark for retail footfall in the UK. It is constructed from the number of shoppers entering stores using a nationally representative sample of over 4000 retail outlets across the UK, excluding the grocery, convenience and minor retail service sectors. As such it is considered to be the only true measure of retail footfall, drawing exclusively on people entering shops rather than shopping centres or walking down high streets.
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