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Creative retailers spur some shopper activity during first week of December

Thursday December 11th 2008

The latest shopper update from Synovate Retail Performance shows that the number of non-food shopping trips made during the first week of December (Sunday 30th November to Saturday 6th December inclusive) was down by 4.1% compared to the same week in 2007, but up 10.1% from the previous week.

Synovate retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denison, said, “The taxi-ing is behind us and we should be accelerating hard along the runway from now to Christmas. Overall, I think retailers will be reasonably satisfied with the latest week's traffic figures given the huge effort that they
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have put into promotions and other incentives. The drop from last year is better than the 5.7% fall that we had predicted for the week, and far better than the 6.6% year-on-year decline we measured for November.

“Retailers are responding well to the challenge of stimulating people to go shopping as there are plenty of selective bargains to be had. This has become the peak week for people to go on-line and do their reconnaissance work for Christmas presents, and retailers have looked to capitalise on the activity in this channel. Friends and family e-voucher offers were particularly prevalent last week, typically offering discounts of 20% on in-store merchandise.

Though the shops are busy, there are reports that sales still remain sluggish. John Lewis, for example, saw an improvement in its trading, but still recorded a 6.7% deficit against last year.

Denison said, “Our belief is that shoppers are taking stock of the offers out there, but are still reticent to spend in the early days of December. The drop in VAT rate seems to have made little difference in lifting consumer confidence and encouraging them to spend.

“The public's perception, rightly or wrongly, is that the discounts will get deeper the closer we get towards Christmas Day, and given the hordes availing themselves of massive discounts at end-of-the-line retailers Woolworth's and MFI, the public needs little encouragement to seek out genuine bargains. The obvious risk in leaving spending to the last minute is that stock of the most popular product lines may run dry,” cautioned Denison.

The most marked regional fall in retail traffic for the week mirrored November. London and the South East saw the number of shopping trips fall sharply, by 8.7% in the w/c 30th November against the same week in 2007.

Synovate Retail Performance will continue producing regular shopping reports in the run up to Christmas as well as afterwards.