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December flurry knocks the stuffing out of shoppers in January

Lower footfall to non-food stores last month compared to a year ago.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

December flurry knocks the stuffing out of shoppers in January

The first indication of how retail is faring at the beginning of 2012 shows that footfall levels were depressed in January. Ipsos Retail Performance reports that its Retail Traffic Index (RTI) measured 5.5% fewer shopping visits to non-food stores last month compared to a year ago. Month-on-month this represents a drop of 29.2% from December.

“The decline in footfall last month is certainly a disappointing start to a fresh year”, comments Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “It indicates that many Sales shopping trips were pulled forward into December, in search of the early bargains, and that by January much of the stuffing had been knocked out of shoppers.”

The first week of the year was particularly slow, with shopper numbers down 11.1% on the same week in 2011. The last week of the month was also weak; the RTI recorded a 5.5% deficit against last year.

“January is always a difficult month for households, particularly those that pushed their spending to the boundary of their means over Christmas”, continues Denison. “The quiet end to the month would suggest that pockets were pretty empty by the time pay day came around. We are all too aware how much spending power has been eroded by inflation exceeding wage rises, and a consequence of this could well be greater fluctuations in the level of weekly shopping behaviour, dependent on cash availability. This is something that we will monitor closely over the course of 2012, because it is a useful indication of the pressure on household budgets.”

According to the ADSA income tracker, the average UK household suffered a 7.2% drop in disposable income in December, putting average spending power at its lowest pecuniary level since January 2007. Confidence in the general state of the economy among households remains weak, but far from an all time low. Ipsos MORI’s Economic Optimisation Index for January recorded a value of -35, a measure of the percentage difference between those said the state of the economy would get better compared with those that said it would get worse over the next 12 months.

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