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UK retailers see modest decline in footfall in Q3

High Street

Footfall continued its recent rally in September, following better than expected figures in August, as consumers remain in a holding pattern while the nation waits for the future political and economic direction to become clearer.

Ipsos Retail Performance, the global retail and footfall consultant, compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

New RTI figures reveal that footfall in non-food stores decreased by -4.4% in September, compared to the same month last year, while the average weekly visits were -7.1% lower than in August.

September’s figures left the third quarter sitting on a -6.0% deficit compared to the same period in 2017- significantly smaller than the first two quarters of the year (-8.5% and -9.6% respectively). The proportion of stores that saw their conversion rates rise against quarter three in 2017, however, fell back to 45.6% from 54.2% in quarter two.

Retailers in London and the South East experienced the most notable bounce back in footfall in quarter three, where the 15.3% year-on-year gap in the second quarter narrowed to a promising -6.7%.

“From a demand perspective, the figures are encouraging,” said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“New ranges and attractive prices drew in shoppers and the growth in real earnings since February together with credit card spending on the rise have been the main facilitators.

The clothing and shoe sector delivered the strongest footfall in the quarter, achieving +0.1% growth compared to 2017. General/variety stores struggled the most, with just 28.3% managing to improve their conversion rate.

“As we move into the peak quarter, retailers will be going the extra mile to ring in the sales. We expect October to be a slower month, with consumers deferring high ticket purchases to Black Friday campaigns,” continued Denison.

“Signs of stronger footfall will encourage the boldest retailers to bolster their Christmas orders, but overzealousness could expose them to crippling stock piles after the festive season.

“With all the uncertainties building around Brexit, and the UK’s trade agreements,” he ends “the months ahead will be defining times for the industry, challenging the acumen of even the very best leadership teams in retailing.”

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