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UK retail footfall growth tempered by cautious shoppers

High Street Retail

Retailers across the country have been breathing a collective sigh of relief as retail footfall in April finally returned to double-digit growth following a poor start to the year.

The Easter bank holiday fuelled a rise in the number of people going to non-food stores, according to our latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI).

Figures  show that the sector rallied after a dismal performance in March. The North of England led the way with +14.5% on average weekly footfall in March. Overall store visits were up +2.7% against April 2016 when Easter fell in the previous month.

But when calculated over two months, to alleviate the impact of Easter’s change in timing, average weekly footfall was down -3.1% compared to last year. The Easter bank holiday weekend also saw a -4% drop on 2016 across retail as a whole, though positive growth was seen in some sectors, most notably the DIY and homeware sector (+9.0%).

Regionally, South West England & Wales and Northern England were hit hardest as footfall deteriorated by -8.0% and -6.3% respectively over March and April against the same period last year.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said:

“With two months of data, we can get a more balanced perspective of how store footfall is performing. Even though we have seen a three per cent drop on last year, this is more than made up for by online growth.

“If consumers are beginning to moderate their shopping, the speed of change is a marathon rather than a sprint. Unquestionably, the pressures on spending and budgets look set to build – but retail is not likely to be the main target for downshifting spending, leisure pursuits are at more immediate risk.

“The fall in official retail sales in Quarter 1 signaled the end of a three-year period of growing consumer spend, but this may have been called a bit prematurely. Even though real wages are coming under fire from rising inflation, there is a counter-balance from near full employment and a skills shortage.”

Our Retail Traffic Index is published monthly and derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK. Click here to find out more about the RTI.

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