UK retail footfall has shown signs of recovery after bouncing back in January.
Non-food footfall fell by 1.4% compared to January last year, a significant improvement from its fall of 9.3% in December 2016, according the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), published by Ipsos Retail Performance.
Store footfall was 1.2% higher in the first week of the new year compared to the same week last year, which provided the first week of year-on-year footfall growth since October 2016.
“The month began briskly for stores in the UK – a combination of shoppers scouring the shelves for final basement bargains and returning or exchanging Christmas gifts,” commented Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.
“Thereafter, high streets calmed down but remained well in touch with last year’s footfall. This month’s small drop is still a strong outcome and shows that people are not ringing the changes to their everyday lives.”
Regionally, Scotland and Northern Ireland saw a significant footfall boost of +6.8% and London and The South East also returned positive news with a +1.7% footfall increase, compared to January 2016.
But the North of England suffered a 2.3% drop in shopper numbers, while the Midlands and the South West of England and Wales witnessed a 4.2% and 5.7% drop respectively.
Looking back on 2016, average weekly footfall ended up dropping -3.8% on the previous year, despite starting strongly. The forecast is for the decline to grow to -4.5% in 2017 before recovering to -2.7% in 2018.
Dr Denison added: “We are all aware of economic storms beginning to form both in the UK and across the world. As well as an uncertain future, inflation is now up to 1.6% and heavily eroding into wage rises. It is all too easy, though, to forget that the main ingredients for consumer spending are still largely intact.
“January’s RTI figures serve as a reminder that shopping conditions remain placid. We therefore don’t expect to see demand to take a rapid turn for the worse, nor for the rate of store footfall decline to steepen dramatically in the near future.”