UK retail footfall down 3% in Q3

Will Oxford Street be empty this Christmas? Photograph by: Shaun Curry/ Getty

Newly released figures spark concern for UK market

Market research company Synovate today released the results of September’s Retail Traffic Index (RTI) publishing a further 3 percent drop in footfall entering non-food shops against the same month last year.

The massive 3 percent slump is a step backwards in comparison to the previous three summer months where the year-on-year deficit was 2.1 percent. Aggregated RTI results for Q3 (July – September) record a decline of 2.4 percent against the same quarter in 2009, better than the 3.4 percent deficit of Q2. Against August, retail footfall was down by 9.4 percent last month, higher than the five-year rolling average of 8.3 percent.

However, despite the bleak figures the survey has also shown that London and the South East have seen a growth of 0.2 percent in footfall over the three month rolling average records year-on-year. The worst affected region is Scotland and Northern Ireland where the three month average is down by 5.7 percent. South West England and Wales fare only marginally better at -4.3 percent.

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Commenting on the latest figures, Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Synovate says: "We are disappointed by the September results. Over the summer there was an improvement in the year-on-year trend suggesting that the British shopper was quietly returning to everyday living. I hope that last month’s downturn turns out to be a blip, but the fear is that it may be an early indicator that consumer uncertainty about the future state of the economy is morphing into anxiety about personal wealth and well-being. Whilst the majority of people seem to have accepted earlier in the year the political case for austerity measures, the harsh consequences of such actions are perhaps now beginning to dawn, with October’s spending review around the corner. This realisation may have adversely affected people’s appetite to shop come the end of the summer holidays.

“Clearly there are some important positives out there. If shoppers in London and the South East continue to buck the trend shown elsewhere, it will help secure satisfactory results for retailers over the crucial last quarter of the year. If, however, activity tails off over the coming months, we could be slipping towards a pretty bleak winter. In my view though, it is far too early to make a prediction about Christmas trading. We will need to wait until next month’s spending review by the Government is over and the impact on consumer confidence is known, before we can judge the state of the shopper’s psyche and their level of resolve."

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