Feb 11, 2020
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Small footfall drop no cause for celebration yet says Ipsos Retail Performance

Feb 11, 2020

Following Springboard’s footfall report for January earlier this week, a second footfall study has agreed that visitor traffic to non-food stores fell just 0.5% in the UK last month.

Footfall may have partially recovered in January but it's too soon for optimism

It’s rare that such reports agree completely but the latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) from Ipsos Retail Performance showed that UK shopper visits easily beat its earlier forecasts that had suggested a 1.9% footfall drop in clearance sale month.

But we shouldn’t get carried away here as it’s clear that the clearance sales were key, and following the sale period, footfall has stumbled again. Ipsos Retail Performance said the tiny January fall was largely due to “a particularly strong showing in the first fortnight of the month” (actually December 29 to January 11) when footfall volumes rose 2.2% on the previous year.

Ignoring monthly performances influenced by changes to the timing of Easter, this boost made it the strongest year-on-year result since January 2016.  

And while footfall was lower than in December as it always is due to January being less important for shopping, it also meant the month-on-month drop of 24.6% was actually the smallest January fall since 2011.

The RTI also showed that for the second consecutive month, year-on-year footfall rose in stores in London and South East England.

So is it time to celebrate? Dr Tim Denison, Ipsos Retail Performance’s director of retail intelligence, said not, despite it appearing to be good news, and he’s not full of optimism for the year ahead. “Few within the retail sector are expecting the ride in 2020 to be any less bumpy than in the previous three years, despite consumers having a stronger financial footing,” he explained. “After the general election result and the call heeded to ‘get Brexit done’, some might argue that evidence is building that clarity has brought confidence and with it a ‘Boris Bounce’. 

“Looking carefully at the Ipsos RTI data, I’ve interpreted January’s results in a different way. Footfall growth came when the winter sale promotions were in full flow and the best bargains were to be had. Aware that pre-Christmas sales had been poor, shoppers wasted little time in seeking out great offers after the holidays. While there may have been some pent-up demand released in January, and perhaps a little more still to come, a retail resurgence is not on the cards in 2020. Business conditions will remain similar to last year and consumer behavioural change will be slow.”

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