High Street Footfall Bounces Back After Dismal Summer

September returned some good news for UK retailers, with footfall recovering after a bleak summer.

In September, footfall entering non-food stores in the UK fell by -1.6% compared to the -4.0% decline seen in the previous two months, according to the Retail Traffic Index published by Ipsos Retail Performance. Average weekly traffic in the month was 5.1% below that of August, ahead of the five-year trend of -6.3%.

For the quarter as a whole, footfall into non-food stores was -3.1% down on Q3 2015, which represents a slight improvement on Q2 when the gap stood at -3.7%. For the year to date, average weekly footfall is -2.6% down on 2015.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “Shoppers in the Midlands are showing the most resilience. There, the year-to-date figure is only 1.2% shy of 2015. Worst hit is London and the South East, where footfall is down -3.8%, reflecting the greater presence of on-line shopping in consumer everyday routines.”

Dr Denison added: “The month started briskly, despite the quiet bank holiday weekend. Over the course of the full first week of September, footfall levels were 2.0% higher than the same week of 2015, and up in all regions of the country. Momentum slipped as school holidays came to an end and by the last week of the month the national deficit was back to -3.7% year-on-year.

“September is an important month for the sector and retailers will be pleased to have seen an upturn in store footfall. The bounce back is slightly stronger than we had expected and reflects stronger consumer demand. But it comes at a price. Even the mighty John Lewis and Next have recently reported shrinking profits, blamed in part on the need to stimulate sales through constant promotions.

“The nation might have enjoyed the benefits of an Indian summer, but it has not changed the hazardous climate in retailing. Every little helps though, and relatively stronger footfall on the high streets is something we all like to see.”