Retailers missed a “big opportunity” as footfall dropped 1.9 per cent over the Easter weekend as consumers shunned shopping over the holiday period.
The figures suggest that consumer confidence is still fragile, despite wage rises matching inflation for the first time in six years last week, according to official figures.
Shopping centre footfall fell sharply by 11.3 per cent on Good Friday and high street footfall dropped 8.4 per cent. The poor weather on Saturday led to a 10.7 per cent high street footfall drop, retail data firm Springboard found.
The figures will be disappointing to retailers as they compare to one of the coldest Easter’s on record in 2013.
“People are clearly still very nervous about spending,” said Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard. “Easter weekend is the next big trading opportunity for retailers after Christmas and a huge opportunity, but even good weather was not enough to encourage people to go out and spend.”
“Though out-of-town locations are trading well, high streets and shopping centres have had a tough time this weekend, which is unexpected. I think it’s a function of the fact that the recovery we are seeing in terms of the macro-economic indicators, such as rising employment and falling inflation, haven’t yet filtered through enough for people to feel more confident,” she said.
However, research firm Capital Economics were more optimistic and think inflation could fall as low as 1 per cent by the end of the year and remain subdued thereafter.
“This would provide stronger foundations for the recovery in consumer spending and should enable the MPC to keep official interest rates on hold for longer than markets currently anticipate,” economist Samuel Tombs explained.
A recent report from O2 concluded that despite poor high street sales, the high street will become a social meeting place and will drive 89 per cent of total sales by 2020 through initiatives such as click and collect and in-store mobile shopping.
Feilim Mackle, Director of Sales and Service at O2, commented: “Stores are no longer just about buying. They are becoming go-to destinations for social, inspiring and rewarding experiences that ultimately drive sales online.”