Shoppers start early to take the stress out of Xmas, says survey

A new study shows renewed vigour on the high street in November and positive indications for December.

The Retail Traffic Index, compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance, reports that 9.8% more shoppers visited non-food stores in November compared with October

Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “The significant rise in shopper numbers in November was unexpected, but very welcome. It’s an early Christmas present for retailers, if this was translated into extra sales, and one that will ease the jitters at this crucial time of the year. Coming on the back of the greater than expected fall in inflation in October, these figures provide further confirmation that headwinds are easing.

The Index shows that shopper numbers surged in the final week of the month with footfall up 4.7% on the week before and up 3.2% on the same week of the previous year. The strong year-on-year uplift is partially the consequence of heavy flooding last year that prevented people from getting to the shops in certain parts of the country.

Dr Tim Denison added that the strong end to the month also suggests some behavioural shifts. “Coming towards the end of a taxing year for consumers, the surge in footfall in late November implies that consumers want to take some of the stress out of Christmas this year, by planning and undertaking some of their shopping early,

“Whether they are anxious that some of the popular presents such as the Xbox One and PS4 will be in short supply as we move into December, or whether the threat of a cold snap is encouraging a ‘bird in the hand’ mentality is not clear, but what we do know is that shoppers have made an early move.”

He concluded: “We’re not anticipating a record-breaking Christmas for retailers on the high street, but there is growing evidence that consumers are opening their minds, wallets and purses to shop and spend a little more this year. We believe this will translate into both store and on-line traffic and sales. The channels are becoming increasingly interdependent through the likes of click-and-collect, pop-up shops and showrooming, ensuring that retailers are maximising the full value of their ongoing investments.

“Our take from the November figures is that consumers are determined to be better prepared this year, content to bank some gift purchases early and rely less on finding last-minute, price-slashed bargains, in the quest for a less stressful Christmas.”

The Ipsos Retail Traffic Index is derived from more than one billion visits to retail stores across the UK.

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