Shopper footfall shows signs of improvement ahead of Christmas
The Retail Traffic Index, which tracks shopper numbers in the UK, recorded a marginal decline of 0.4% against November 2011 compared to a 3% deficit in October. Month-on-month, the RTI saw a 2.6% increase across the country.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, explained: "Since July we have seen the underlying trend in retail footfall improving, closing a 6 point deficit on numbers from last year. November’s figures are particularly encouraging, given the strength of 2011 comparison. This marks a significant step forward, building a belief that the worst is now behind us and that the ‘new normal’ has arrived."
Ipsos said that November footfall figures would have been better still, had wet weather and flooding not deluged parts of the country in the last week of the month. In South West England and Wales, the region most affected, shopper numbers were depleted by 9.3% during the week of 18 November, compared against the same week of 2011.
Dennison continued: "It’s always tricky to forecast for the all-important month of December, especially as shopper sentiment and behaviour has altered in recent times but our model is predicting a modest decline in the number of shopping trips of -2.1% year-on-year. The strong performance last year, with footfall 2.9% higher than 2010 and Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, is projected to overpower the current gentle upturn."
Ipsos predicts that consumers may choose not to overstretch themselves this Christmas as the monthly RTI statistics show that 2012 has been a sobering year, one in which shoppers have learnt to be less consumptive and more questioning about the value of what they buy.
"Retailers will need to be on their mettle this month, able to respond quickly and decisively to competitive action and pricing initiatives," added Denison.
"Stock levels will be smaller than previous years, so on best-selling lines the brave-hearted might decide not to push the discount button and instead be prepared to gamble that demand will exceed supply.
"It will be interesting to see how this plays out among retailers with the likes of the imminent Nintendo Wii U launch. Christmas always has its winners and losers. In this respect 2012 will be no different - the winning retailers will be those that best respond to the shoppers’ call of ‘give me a reason to buy!"
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