February footfall plummets 16.2% amid Brexit uncertainty

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February footfall
// February footfall plunges 16.2% compared to January
// Compared to February last year, footfall fell 4.6% despite there being no snow storm this year
// Drop in footfall blamed on weak half-term figures and “Brexit pantomime”

Footfall figures for the month of February took a sudden turn after a positive start to the year, with experts blaming it on consumer uncertainty around the “Brexit pantomime”.

The latest Retail Traffic Index saw footfall figures plunge 16.2 per cent in February when compared to the previous month.

On a year-on-year basis February footfall fell 4.6 per cent, despite there being no snow storm keeping people away from the shops as it did when the Beast from the East swept through the UK last year.

February’s drop in footfall compares to January’s marginal decline of 0.8 per cent, which was the index’s lowest year-on-year decline in three years.

Ipsos Retail Performance, the consultancy firm behind the index, said the political uncertainty around Brexit negotiations was a major reason behind February’s poor footfall figures.

It also said there some “unexpected turns”, such as sluggish start to the month and a half-term week where footfall figures were down by 4.4 per cent against 2018.

On a three-month year-on-year basis footfall fell 2.2 per cent, which Ipsos said was the “strongest” level since June 2017.

Ipsos said March is expected to bring little respite, especially since Easter falls in April this year.

The consultancy firm forecast footfall to remain placid in the month ahead, with average weekly numbers expected to edge up by 1.9 per cent on a month-on-month basis and by one per cent year-on-year.

“After gorging on the January sales, shoppers showed constraint when full price ranges were introduced in February,” Ipsos Retail Performance retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison said.

“The first week of the month was quietest in the shops since last year’s Beast from the East blew through.

“The contrast in footfall between the two months typifies the fickle nature of consumer demand in these uncertain times.

“Undoubtedly, households have more disposable income than they have had for a while, but there is an understandable reticence to take the breaks off and spend more freely in the shops.

“As in all parts of the economy, the future state of retailing will depend on how the Brexit pantomime plays out.

“For the time being, the nation and its shopkeepers wait on, nervously.”

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