UK retail shops started the year on a positive note after it experienced a relatively small fall in footfall year-on-year, according to new figures.
The latest Retail Traffic Index published by Ipsos Retail Performance indicates that footfall was down by “just” 1.4 per cent last month compared to January 2016, after December’s 9.3 per cent drop year-on-year.
In addition, store footfall was 1.2 per cent higher in the first week of the new year compared with the same week last year, providing the first week of year-on-year footfall growth since October last year.
The figures from Ipsos are in line with similar footfall stats released by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard last month, which indicated that overall footfall in December was 0.2 per cent down – making it the fourth consecutive month of decline but not as bad as the 2.2 per cent drop in December 2015.
Ipsos retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison the month began “briskly” for UK stores.
“A combination of shoppers scouring the shelves for final basement bargains and returning or exchanging Christmas gifts,” he said.
“Thereafter, high streets calmed down but remained well in touch with last year’s footfall. This month’s small drop is still a strong outcome and shows that people are not ringing the changes to their everyday lives.”
In terms of regions, footfall in Scotland and Northern Ireland increased by 6.8 per cent while London and the South East had a 1.7 per cent increase.
However, the index showed that last year’s average weekly footfall fell 3.8 per cent year-on-year, and the forecast is looking to be a 4.5 per cent drop for this year.
“We are all aware of economic storms beginning to form both in the UK and across the world,” Denison said.
“As well as an uncertain future, inflation is now up to 1.6 per cent and heavily eroding into wage rises. It is all too easy, though, to forget that the main ingredients for consumer spending are still largely intact.
“January’s [index] figures serve as a reminder that shopping conditions remain placid. We therefore don’t expect to see demand to take a rapid turn for the worse, nor for the rate of store footfall decline to steepen dramatically in the near future.”