Oct 14, 2016
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UK store traffic improved last month but challenges remain

Oct 14, 2016

Two separate UK retail reports have shown the high street is on the come back after a tough summer. But, the UK still faces a challenging environment in early autumn, especially for fashion retailers, the reports warn. Ipsos Retail Performance said today that footfall recovered after a bleak summer, although it was still down on the year.

UK shoppers returned to the high street last month but challenges remain for stores - DR

The retail and footfall consultant said visitor traffic to non-food stores fell by 1.6% year-on-year last month, much better than the 4% decline seen in both August and September. And while average weekly foot traffic in September was 5.1% below that of August, it was ahead of the five-year trend of -6.3%.

Ipsos Retail Performance said the month started briskly, despite the quiet bank holiday weekend. Over the course of the full first week of September, footfall levels were 2% higher than the same week of 2015, and up in all regions of the country. But momentum slipped as the school holidays came to an end and by the last week of the month the national deficit was back to -3.7% year-on-year.

The proportion of stores achieving conversion rate growth on 2015 in September suffered a setback, but there was better news for fashion. In August, 56% of non-food stores had reported a conversion rate gain on the year according to Ipsos Retail Performance’s Conversion Rate Tracker. In September, however, that percentage had shrunk to 48.4% of stores.
Worst hit were stores in Wales where only 33% of stores managed to improve their conversion rate on last year. Stores in the North West were the highest achievers in September, where 54% of them improved their conversion rate on last year.
Sector wise, the Leisure and Sportswear sector topped the league with 72% of stores achieving conversion rate gains. Clothing and Footwear stores delivered a significantly stronger performance in September than August, with 57% of stores improving their conversion rate.
Meanwhile, British Retail Consortium sales figures earlier in the week showed a similar picture of a stronger September after a weak August but with stores still not achieving the sales and footfall levels they might wish for.

Sales of non-food products rose just 0.5% during month as back-to-school and big ticket items enjoyed “solid growth”, but sales of fashion products “were affected amid warmer weather.”

Ipsos Retail said that some regions in the UK suffered lower footfall, particularly London and the South East, due to the large proportion of online shopping done in those areas and the BRC figures supported this.

The retail group said that, despite the anaemic non-food growth overall last month, online non-food sales jumped 10.2%, beating the three-month average of 9.3%.

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