The number of shoppers in non-food stores last month fell by 6% when compared to January 2012, new figures released today show.

Snow chills January footfall figures

The number of shoppers in non-food stores last month fell by 6% when compared to January 2012, new figures released today show.

Snow chills January footfall figures

This January’s Retail Traffic Index from Ipsos Retail Performance also reveals a fall of 31.9% on the
December figure compared to a seasonal norm of -26.3%.

“We had expected fewer shoppers in January than last year because retailers were carrying less surplus Christmas and sales stock, and sales campaigns had been pulled forward into December,” says Dr Tim Denison, head of retail intelligence at Ipsos.

In the event, however, footfall levels for January as a whole were far short of the forecast 2.1% year-on-year decline. In the fortnight straddling 2012 and 2013, the winter sales began brightly, realising a 3% year-on-year increase in footfall traffic. However, fortunes turned dramatically with the arrival of widespread snowfall over the second half of January.

“This prevented many shoppers from reaching stores, and that had a severe impact on shopping activity and month-end footfall,” explains Dr Denison. “Retailers were thankful that snow didn’t play havoc in December, as it has done in recent times, but eventually it arrived and played a part in January’s footfall decline in several parts of the UK.”

The Midlands was the worst affected region of the country, where shopper numbers over the last fortnight of January were almost 20% below the level in the same period of 2012. London and the south east were the least affected.

But Dr Denison believes the January RTI figures should not be indicative of what might happen in the year ahead.

“We’re forecasting that the RTI will flatline in 2013, stemming the decline that we’ve tracked over the last five years,” he says. “Though it may look fanciful, coming off the back of another difficult year for the sector, the
growth in the likes of click-and-collect and emerging shopping behaviours such as ‘showrooming’ and dynamic marketing can help drive up store traffic this year and act as a catalyst for the revival and evolution of stores.

“2013 will be another challenging year for retailers, but we believe it will also be a formative one, helping to shape the function of the store of the future.”

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