Retail footfall levels across the UK rose by 3.8% in March over February – but were 6% down on March 2012, according to the latest monthly Retail Traffic Index, compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance.
Fresh falls of snow and the enduring cold weather punished retail stores particularly hard over the fortnight commencing March 10, when 12.8% fewer shopping trips were made.
The first week of Easter returned mixed figures. In the south-west and Wales, retail footfall was 7.1% up on the same week of 2012, and in south-east England and London it was up by 2.6%.
But in other parts of the UK, numbers were down. Compared with the first week of Easter 2012, shopper numbers were 10.2% lower. It brings to a close a quiet first quarter of 2013 for retail footfall, 5.3% down on Q1 2012 – significantly weaker than the 2% decline in Q4 2012.
Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, commented: “Weather conditions could not have been more different to last year, when March was the sunniest on record since 1929 and the warmest since 1997.
“This clearly had a dramatic impact on shopper footfall in March just gone, with many deciding to remain at home.”
Looking ahead he said there is cause for mild optimism in the short term, particularly as the weather across the UK begins to warm up.
He noted that real disposable income levels are in better shape than thought(they rose by 2.1% in 2012, their strongest growth since 2003); the household savings ratio now stands at 7.1%, its highest since 1997; and “there was further good news in the Budget with the announcement of fuel duty being held static and further increases to income tax personal allowances.
“We sense that with the first rays of sunshine and warmth, consumers will be keen to get out and shops will see a surge in footfall,” he continued.
“The winter weather seems to have lasted longer than ever this year, and as a consequence many people have deferred their normal Spring shopping spree.
“We know from the stats that there is a little more disposable income in people’s pockets; all we need now is some encouragement to get outside the house, visit the local shops and spend it.”