The number of people hitting the shops last month was an improvement on a quiet February but still worse than the same period last year, according to a new survey.
Synovate’s month Retail Performance report shows that footfall fell by seven per cent year-on-year in March but rose 1.5 per cent month-on-month as consumers felt happier to spend than in February, but inflation and financial worries continued to make shoppers cautious.
Over the first quarter of 2011 retail footfall finished 4.8 per cent lower than in the first quarter 2010, but shopper numbers have improved on the final quarter of last year by 5.6 per cent.
Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Synovate, said: “The start of 2011 has been challenging for retailers on a number of fronts.
“The loss of five shoppers in every hundred is certainly one of these and it is hurting retailers up and down the country. March was another difficult month for footfall. Admittedly March 2010 benefitted from having Easter in it, so making this year’s figure look particularly weak.
“Nevertheless we cannot hide from the facts that firstly, shoppers simply haven’t come out of their winter retrenchment yet and, secondly, that consumer confidence is continuing on a downward trajectory.”
According to the Asda Income Tracker for February, the average UK family’s spending power has fallen by £11 per week, and with many retailers having to pass on higher costs to their consumers, money is tight for many.
John Lewis, often seen as a barometer for the industry, saw sales recovering last week as the warmer weather helped drive fashion sales, and many retailers will be hoping that warmer weather and forthcoming events will give a boost to their sector.
Denison added: “Over the next month or so though, we can expect to see some respite. The long awaited arrival of Easter, the royal wedding and the accompanying bank holidays will boost footfall and retail sales.
“Visit London predicts that an extra 600,000 tourists will come to Britain over the wedding period alone.
“The question is how long can we expect the uplift in the nation’s spirit and shopping to last.”