Retail Traffic Index figures show positive signs as we approach “the end of the worst of the downturn” – but businesses are warned not be over-optimistic.

Retail footfall rises 4.2% in March

Retail Traffic Index figures show positive signs as we approach “the end of the worst of the downturn” – but businesses are warned not be over-optimistic.

Retail footfall rises 4.2% in March

Synovate’s Retail Traffic Index shows that retail footfall for March was up 4.2% month on month against February and only 0.2% down compared with 2008.

However, Synovate retail psychologist Tim Denison cautioned against over-optimism.

“We shouldn’t over-egg the significance of one month’s figures, nor should we be over-surprised that shoppers were out and about in greater numbers after a very cold and financially depressing winter,” he said.

He explained that March 2008 was a “particularly weak comparator”, with the early Easter failing to deliver its normal rush to the shops.

Looking at the broader picture, shopper numbers in the full first quarter of 2009 were down 2.6% year on year, compared to -3.3% in Q4 of 2008.

Denison added: “We might be approaching the end of the worst of the downturn, and that alone should give the retail industry a whiff of a reason to be more optimistic about the future.”

Synovate expects the shops to be busier still in April, with the first year-on-year growth (+0.7% for the full month) in shopper numbers since August 2008, helped by the Easter fortnight when the number of shoppers is forecast to be 4.1% higher than the early Easter last year.

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