March upturn in sales follows quiet January and February.
The Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which monitors the volums of shoppers in non-food stores across the UK, says that footfall rallied in March after a all-time low February, but has been dampened by April’s appalling weather.
A statement from the RTI said that, following a dreadful trading period for many retailers in January and February of this year, March saw an upturn in their fortunes, albeit due to unseasonably good weather and the build up to the Easter holiday period.
March was at its warmest in the UK since 1997 and the sunniest on record since 1929, with the footfall national average up 6.4% on the previous month, but down by 3.4% year-on-year.
The RTI has been compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance since 2000. It had forecast April to bring an increase in shopper footfall of 9.4%, however the return of wet and cold weather, combined with financial pressures on household incomes, has now dampened that expectation.
Tim Denison, head of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “March footfall brought some welcome respite for retailers, especially those selling products which people naturally go out and buy if spring is in the air and they want to tidy up their garden, do a bit of DIY or invite friends around for a barbecue.
“If we had also been basking in sunshine this month, then that strong upward trend may have continued, but the inclement weather is washing away those hopes”
The RTI footfall figures for January and February 2012 had already shown that retail had started slowly this year, but despite signs of an improvement in March, the outlook remains grim.
“Spring, good weather, and forthcoming events including the Games and Queen’s Jubilee can’t come soon enough for retailers,” added Denison.