Spring time weather needed to bring shoppers back to the high street.
Footfall on the UK high street dropped by 3.1 percent from January to February, according to the Synovate Retail Performance Retail Traffic Index.
The month also recorded a 1.3 percent drop from a year ago, better than January, which saw a 5 percent year-on-year fall, but worse than the industry hoped for.
“After such a slow start to the year in January, retailers were hoping for better things last month, but our figures show little evidence of any respite,” said Synovate director of retail intelligence, Tim Denison. “The fatigue that hit shoppers in January, after their short-lived buying frenzy at the end of December, persisted throughout February,” he added.
Retailers will be hoping for a springtime bounce as shoppers venture out after a freezing winter, but Synovate suggests it is too soon to tell whether the downturn on the high street is being driven by deeper underlying causes.
“If it is the ongoing cold and inclement weather that is primarily keeping people away from the shops that is one thing, but if it is derived from an inherent deep-seated weakness in demand it is quite another matter – and one that is far more concerning for retailers and for the state of the general economy. A sustained period of spring sunshine will give us some vital clues,” said Denison.
The retail analyst struck a note of caution by questioning whether government stimulus measures, such as the reduction in VAT and the car scrappage scheme propped up 2009 to the detriment of retailers in 2010.
“It is only now that we will begin to see whether the “borrow-and-spend” strategy that pulled spending forward into 2009 was at the expense of consumer spending in 2010. Stronger demand and lower costs came to retailing’s rescue in 2009, but both look under pressure now.
"Significant rises in cost of freight from the Far East, likely to push up price inflation in the non-food sector, presents retailers with their next chapter of challenges,” Synovate stated.