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Following January’s promising footfall results, there were some unexpected turns in February as non-food figures dropped. Overall year-on-year numbers were down by -4.6%, while month-on-month figures fell -16.2%.

A sluggish start to the month and a half term week where figures were down by 4.4% against 2018, were the key determinants of the poor performance.

Despite a disappointing month, the three-month year-on-year trend remained at its strongest level since June 2017 at -2.2%

March is expected to bring little respite. Although a repeat of last year’s Siberian weather conditions is not anticipated, neither will there be an Easter boost to shopping, as it falls in April this year.

Footfall is likely to remain placid in the month ahead, with average weekly numbers forecast to edge up by +1.9% on February and by +1.0% on last year.

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

“After gorging on the January sales, shoppers showed constraint when full price ranges were introduced in February. The first week of the month was quietest in the shops since last year’s Beast from the East blew through.

“The contrast in footfall between the two months typifies the fickle nature of consumer demand in these uncertain times. Undoubtedly, households have more disposable income than they have had for a while, but there is an understandable reticence to take the breaks off and spend more freely in the shops.

“As in all parts of the economy, the future state of retailing will depend on how the Brexit pantomime plays out. For the time being, the nation and its shopkeepers wait on, nervously.”

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