February was a tough month for UK retailers, with footfall on the high street falling -12.5% compared to the previous month – the biggest drop in shopper traffic between January and February since 2004.
Our latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) recorded shopper numbers throughout February as being -6.5% fewer than the same period last year.
The RTI recorded poor performance right across the UK, with footfall falling month-on-month and year-on-year in every region for the first time since September 2016.
“For what is often considered the most depressing month of the year, these footfall figures will do very little to raise the spirits of retailers”, commented Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.
“Throughout 2016 the economy was strengthened by consumer spending, the question on every retailer’s lips should be how long this continues to be the GDP’s mainstay. Rising inflation, propelled by higher food and energy prices, in tandem with static wage growth will at some point no doubt hit retail sales and footfall.”
The North of England suffered the biggest drop in year-on-year footfall, with a fall of -8.9% compared to February 2016. Month-on-month, South East England and London recorded the largest drop at -16.2%.
Dr Denison continued:
“Consumers are still spending money at the tills, except people may be dipping into their savings and extending credit to fund their existing lifestyles, so we shouldn’t expect sales to fall of a cliff in the imminent future. Footfall figures are oscillating month on month, and it is difficult to conclude any underlying trend of where it is headed – until this is determined we should not jump to any drastic conclusions.
“It’s likely that the knock on effect of a slowing economy will trickle down to the shop tills in a transient way, and is unlikely to manifest itself until the second half of the year.”
The Retail Traffic Index is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
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