Shoppers defy high street gloom with optimistic January footfall

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January footfall
// January footfall down 0.8%, lowest year-on-year decline in 3 years
// Data compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance

British shoppers defied growing uncertainty over Brexit and started the new year by thronging the high streets, with new footfall figures indicating that January saw the lowest annual decline in non-food footfall in three years.

The latest statistics from Ipsos Retail Performance reveal that non-food footfall fell 0.8 per cent in the UK compared to the previous year, making it the lowest decline in 36 months, excluding seasonal adjustments.

Further figures showed that year-on-year deficits over three months have declined by 2.2 per cent over the period of November 2018 to January 2019, compared to a decline of 11 per cent in March-May 2018.

January’s figures also marked the lowest fall back from the Christmas period since 2008, with footfall in the first month of 2019 down 26.5 per cent compared to December.

“Shopping was bolstered by a combination of continued falling inflation rates, which now stands below the Bank of England’s marker of two per cent, and increasing wages which, at 3.4 per cent, are growing at the strongest rate since the financial crisis,” Ipsos Retail Performance director Dr Tim Denison said.

“Households will not only be replenishing their depleted savings with this extra income, but are also spending some of it on the high street.”

The region with the weakest year-on-year figures for the sixth consecutive month was South West England and Wales, recording a decline in footfall of 3.9 per cent.

Elsewhere, stores across Northern England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and The Midlands all experienced a growth in footfall against January 2018.

The first week was the formative time of the month, when traffic rose year-on-year by 6.4 per cent and across all regions of the country.

While the first week did fall before New Year’s Eve this year, Denison said this wasn’t the sole bearing on the positive results.

“With the year-on-year gap in both store sales and traffic trends narrowing every month since May last year, one would be forgiven for thinking that British consumers are cocking a snook at parliamentarians over the Brexit debacle, and getting on with the day-to-day,” he said.

“Certainly, January shoppers had one eye on bagging a bargain, while they had the cash to do so.

“However, the fact that the trend data has shown signs of strengthening for some time now indicates that shopping behaviour at the start of the year is not the consequence of consumers developing a siege mentality.”

Denison said that while sentiment still swirls around in the Brexit fog, it would likely be events such as the pauses in car production across some plants that would quickly lead to the significant changes in consumer behaviour.

Ipsos Retail Performance compiles the Retail Traffic Index, which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

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