Shoppers remain cautious in May

Customers queue as Apple launch the iPad in the UK. (Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Synovate reports continued year-on-year decline in footfall and sales.

Synovate’s Retail Traffic Index (RTI) revealed that footfall into non-food outlets fell again by 3.7 percent year-on-year in May and two percent from April.

Whilst footfall was stronger on the two May bank holiday weekends, neither fell entirely within the months reporting period of May 2 – 29.

Figures for footfall over the May holiday weekend from May 1 – 3 were also down by 0.5 percent. But over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, shopper numbers were 5.4 percent higher than over the corresponding holiday weekend last year, which fell a week earlier.

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Synovate UK Retail Performance director Dr Tim Denison said: “May’s figures look pretty disappointing overall, particularly as May 2009 was a very weak month for retail footfall. They are hardly welcoming to the new Government and certainly reinforce the scale of the challenges ahead.

“Shoppers continue to go about their business in a cautious vein. The crowds seen at last week’s UK launch of the iPad and the opening of the Louis Vuitton maison in New Bond Street, though, together with recent trading results, most noticeably Burberry’s, are testament to the fact that people’s appetite to shop has not entirely waned.

Denison said a rise in VAT before the Autumn is highly likely, which by causing a short-term pressure on inflation could create further challenges for retailers. The Synovate director also claimed recently published results from the Distributive Trade Survey suggest that retailers are becoming increasingly conservative in their procurement plans moving into Q3.

“What we have established since the last quarter of 2008 is that the majority of multiple retailers have learnt how to manage their businesses in a period of prolonged downturn and recession. They are also aware that the impact on the consumer has not been particularly hard felt to date, but as the impending cuts start to bite, there is no room for complacency, or to take the pressure off process changes, efficiency gains and customer scrutiny,” Denison concluded.

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