Riots and economic downturn hit shopper footfall in August


Experian’s UK National Retail FootFall Index for August shows an overall year-on-year fall in shopper visits of 3.2%.  

The disappointing performance was expected given the challenging start to the month for retailers when stores were looted and set alight, making shoppers cautious about getting caught up in any disturbances, said Experian.

Compared with the previous month, shopper numbers dropped 1.2%. The month-on-month fall, albeit higher than reported last year in August 2010, is in line with expectations as the school summer holidays are in full swing across the country, said researchers.

The impact of the UK riots caused estimated damages of around £141m, according to the the British Retail Consortium. 

Retailers were forced to close early as a precaution or to deal with the aftermath. The knock on impact from fewer trading hours was less footfall, said Experian.

Despite these difficulties, retailers have been quick to rebuild their confidence and focus on restoring normality, aided by a public backlash that sought to expose the perpetrators and reclaim the streets in a show of defiance.

August’s year-on-year footfall decline (the largest fall since the start of the year) cannot be entirely attributed to the riots and the economic downturn; although austerity measures are increasingly impacting on household budgets, said researchers.

The fickle behaviour of consumers is often cited as a cause of declining visitor numbers, said Experian. However, in reality shoppers are now more savvy and streetwise in how, when and where they shop. As a result, the link between visitor numbers and sales is less clear cut than before, it claims.

Spending is forecast to slow further over the coming months, as the impact of rising inflation continues to squeeze households, said Experian. 

While a month may not be long time in retailing, attention has swiftly shifted to September’s likely visitor flows and trading performance, with the knowledge the pre-Christmas build will be starting earlier than usual, Experian said.