Storms send high street footfall spiralling

April footfall

Storms left a major dent on high street footfall rates last month, as a slowdown in consumer spending starts to become a stark reality for retailers.

According to the latest monthly Retail Traffic Index compiled by consultancy firm Ipsos Retail Performance, UK footfall dipped slumped 9.1 per cent in October compared to the same period last year.

Areas of the UK affected by storms Ophelia and Brian were badly hit in particular, especially the north of England which endured a 12.6 per cent year-on-year drop.

Half-term week was also disappointing for retailers, with the last week of the month resulting in a 12.6 per cent drop in footfall across the UK’s high streets compared with the same time last year.

While the overall footfall rose marginally by 0.3 per cent on a month-on-month basis, this was still well short of the historical average growth of 4-5 per cent between September and October.

Ipsos’ footfall index is based on the number of individual shoppers entering over 4000 non-food, bricks-and-mortar retail stores across the UK.

However, they are not as closely-watched as the index compiled by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard, which are due to release their October figures in the coming days.

Ipsos said “various data sources” were beginning to show a slowdown in consumer spending, with entertainment and leisure pursuits the hardest hit.

“The stark deficit this month is not simply down to the weekend storms, but is also symptomatic of shoppers holding back in anticipation of early launches of Black Friday offers,” Ipsos retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison said.

“Retailers will not welcome this decline in store footfall, but they should treat the size of the downturn as a blip in this year’s figures.

“The interest rate rise is likely to encourage consumers to make the most of the Black Friday offers, pulling forward some of their Christmas shopping into November – although online and mobile will be the main benefactors of this.

“The rise in interest rates is something that many consumers will not have experienced in their adulthood, so any reaction in terms of spending less and saving more is likely to be slow.”

The index is expected to return to month-on-month growth in November, with footfall levels predicted to rise 1.7 per cent compared to October and also close the year-on-year gap to November 2016 to -2.9 per cent.

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