February Blues For Retailers On The High Street As Footfall Plummets

Following on from yesterday’s disappointing retail sales figures from the British Retail Consortium, latest footfall figures add to the evidence that February was a tough month for UK retailers.

The Retail Traffic Index (RTI), published by Ipsos Retail Performance, show that footfall on the high street fell 12.5% compared to the previous month – the biggest drop in shopper traffic between January and February since 2004 – and 6.5% fewer than the same period last year.

The RTI recorded poor performance right across the UK, with footfall falling month-on-month and year-on-year in every region for the first time since September 2016.

“For what is often considered the most depressing month of the year, these footfall figures will do very little to raise the spirits of retailers”, commented Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“Throughout 2016 the economy was strengthened by consumer spending, the question on every retailer’s lips should be how long this continues to be the GDP’s mainstay. Rising inflation, propelled by higher food and energy prices, in tandem with static wage growth will at some point no doubt hit retail sales and footfall.”

Dr Denison added: “Consumers are still spending money at the tills, except people may be dipping into their savings and extending credit to fund their existing lifestyles, so we shouldn’t expect sales to fall of a cliff in the imminent future. Footfall figures are oscillating month on month, and it is difficult to conclude any underlying trend of where it is headed – until this is determined we should not jump to any drastic conclusions.

“It’s likely that the knock on effect of a slowing economy will trickle down to the shop tills in a transient way, and is unlikely to manifest itself until the second half of the year.”