Storms & coronavirus outbreak prompt record low footfall in February

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Storms & coronavirus outbreak prompt record low footfall in February
Despite containing Valentine’s Day, the quietest week of the month was the week commencing February 9. (Image: PA)
// Record low for footfall as shoppers avoid February rain & Covid-19, according to Ipsos Retail Performance
// Average weekly footfall in non-food stores sunk by 14.2% year-on-year and by 23% compared to January
// Hardest hit stores were in Northern England and the Midlands

February saw “unprecedented” record lows in retail footfall as a series of major storms and the outbreak of coronavirus kept shoppers at home.

According to the latest Retail Traffic Index from Ipsos Retail Performance, compared to January’s figure, shopper numbers dropped by 23 per cent in what was the wettest February on record.

On a year-on-year basis, February’s average weekly footfall was down by 14.2 per cent.


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The hardest hit stores were in Northern England, where footfall fell 16.8 per cent year-on-year, and and the Midlands where footfall declined 16.3 per cent year-on-year.

Despite containing Valentine’s Day, the quietest week of the month was the week commencing February 9.

It represented the second lowest point ever measured by the Retail Traffic Index, after the week February 25 when the “Beast from the East” snow storm struck the UK.

“For the past 14 years, February has been the month of the year when average weekly footfall is at its quietest,” Ipsos Retail Performance retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison said.

“That said, last month was unprecedented. The 23 per cent drop on January is over twice as much as the average since the turn of the century.

“This underlines the battering impact that storms such as Ciara, Dennis and Jorge have had on day-to-day life and retail businesses.

“For multiple retailers equipped with internet shopping capabilities, the sales ramifications may be cushioned, but for local independent stores, the wettest February on record will hit them hard.

“In addition to the rain, the arrival of the coronavirus has twisted the knife still further this month. For retail destinations most attractive to Asian tourists, footfall was hit hard.

“While bad weather may come and go, we are simply unsure about the longevity and reach that Covid-19 will have on day-to-day life.

“It may lead to local lockdowns which would damage domestic as well as tourist trade for months to come.

“It is ironic that just after Brexit is finally done, and consumer confidence enjoys a boost, another contagion hits the country.”

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