UK footfall turns a corner in time for Christmas, Ipsos Retail Performance reveals

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The UK non-food retail market rallied in October following a disappointing end to the summer, with the month posting the strongest year-on-year rise in footfall for October since 2004.

The global retail and footfall consultant, Ipsos Retail Performance, 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.

In October the RTI improved 5.7% on the previous month and 1.3% year-on-year. This marked gain will be welcomed by retailers as they move into the golden quarter. The year-on-year rise of 1.3% on October 2013 is the best performance for the month of October since 2004, a sign that both the economy and retail sector are moving in the right direction.

Off the back of a September setback, an immediate rise in footfall will re-energise retailers’ confidence looking ahead to the Christmas campaign. Northern England continued to lead the year-on-year charge amongst the regions with a rise in footfall of 5.4%, enhancing the belief that the progressive decline in store footfall across the north in recent years has now been stemmed.

The clothing and footwear sector struggled badly with unseasonably warm weather in September, resulting in the slow selling of winter stock. Whilst retailers enjoyed much improved footfall levels in October, seeing footfall rise by 2.1% year-on-year both heavy discounting and unplanned promotional activity were rife and will have been largely responsible for the increase in traffic.

“After a disappointing September, it is good to see retail footfall bounce back immediately,” said Tim Denison, director at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“Official sales figures show that Christmas 2013 was the best for the high street since 2004. With footfall seemingly back on the ascendency, this year is shaping up to be a shade better than 2013 and it couldn’t come at a better time for retailers.

“All of the main indicators of consumer confidence are in an improved position. People are more content with their personal finances and job security, as indicated in the 6% rise in unsecured consumer credit in September.”

The week commencing 26 October was the busiest of the month, with Halloween coinciding with half term for most of the country. Traffic that week was 1.2% busier year-on-year and up 16.6% on the week proceeding.

Denison said: “It’s clear that consumer spending and corporate investments remain the linchpin of the economy, and that is likely to remain the case going into an election year. It seems that shoppers are not immediately concerned with the apparent widening trade gap and weakening Eurozone economy, boding well for a good Q4 for retailers.”

Footfall change: October 2014 vs October 2013 

Scotland & Northern Ireland +0.8%
North of England +5.4%
The Midlands +2.8%
South West England & Wales +2.6%
South East England & London +3.2%

Footfall change: October 2014 vs September 2014
Scotland & Northern Ireland +5.5%
North of England +8.0%
The Midlands +4.6%
South West England & Wales +7.7%
South East England & London +3.8%