Consumers recover from an excessive Christmas
Published: 01 March, 2007
The latest data from Experian's FootFall division confirms other evidence from the retail sector showing stronger trading in February following on from a very weak January.
Retail activity has been helped by consumers recovering from the financial excesses of Christmas and interest rates staying on hold in February despite worries over a further increase.
There are also tentative signs that unemployment is starting to come down. For the year, as a whole, however, we still expect that recent interest rate increases and continued high indebtedness will limit recovery in retail activity.
While January saw the post-Christmas slump in visits to retailers and shopping centres, the traditional and expected uplift in February resulted in a monthly increase in the Retail FootFall Index (RFI) of 3.5 per cent.
The predicted pattern in these early months of 2007 is similar to the past two years, although the gap in terms of decreasing visitors is widening with the RFI down 6.5 per cent on February 2006.
Lower numbers of shopper visits does not necessarily equate to lower sales figures and this is a growing feature of shopper behaviour in Britain. Greater channel choice plays a part in this trend, so too does the degree of shopping centre choice and the more discerning consumer. The choosy consumer, at one time the preserve of more upmarket brands, is today present across all price points.
Looking forward, March rarely sees an uplift in shopper numbers. Whether there will be a Mother's Day rush is debatable, as traditional gifts can easily be bought online, alongside routine and localised shopping trips.
=== Retail Footfall Index UK - Feb 2007 ===
Month-on-month (February 2007 v January 2007) UP +3.5%
Year-on-year (February 2007 v February 2006) DOWN -6.5%