Shoppers stride away from UK fashion stores in May, footfall dip bucks seasonal trend
Hot on the heels of the BDO monthly sales tracker, another report came out Friday that highlighted the problems the UK retail sector (and fashion in particular) faces at present.
The latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) from Ipsos Retail Performance (IRP) showed footfall failed to live up to expectations in May, with the usual seasonal build-up of traffic conspicuously absent.
UK shopper numbers were 4.2% lower than May 2016, despite a busy May Bank holiday week in which footfall was just 0.8% lower than last year. Rising food costs and increasing utility bills have left households with both less disposable income and a reduced desire to spend on non-essentials, the researchers said.
The figures were particularly worrying because IRP derives the data from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK. That’s a big sample and one that takes grocery traffic out of the picture, meaning fashion is a big part of the overall result.
“May is the month in which we usually see weekly footfall progressively rising, as the weather improves and shopping becomes a more frequent pastime. The upswing didn’t happen this year, that’s not to say it won’t, but it’s certainly late,” said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence.
“At a time when we find ourselves in political and economic no-man’s-land, it’s wholly understandable why shoppers are exercising more caution when it comes to spending disposable income. With four in 10 shops managing at present to convert more browsers into spenders this year over last, it's apparent that consumers are being more discerning and selective with what they buy.”
Footfall fell in every region of the country when compared to both last year and last month, with South West England/Wales suffering from the biggest year-on-year drop at -8.9%. Month-on-month, Scotland/Northern Ireland witnessed the biggest drop at -10.6%.
However, IRP doesn’t necessarily believe that all is lost. Dr Denison added: “Footfall may have stuttered, but the fact that is hasn’t fallen off a cliff means shoppers are not in a state of severe retrenchment – rather a slight throttling back. We expect the same degree of softening to carry into June while price deflation, and economic uncertainty continue.”
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