UK retail footfall levels have grown for a third consecutive month in May for the first time in five years.
According to figures released by Ipsos Retail Perfomance, the Retail Traffic Index (RTI) has risen from April to May by 1.4 per cent, though they were still 4.2 per cent lower than one year ago.
"This is the first time since 2008 that we have recorded monthly footfall growth in the three months of March, April and May," said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Improvement.
"By itself the trend may not be too revealing, but there is a certain symmetry appearing among various industry data and business survey results.
"Company failings are at their lowest level since that heady period in early 2008. The Purchasing Managers’ Index for services in April hit an eight month high and we have also seen headline inflation ease to 2.4 per cent in April, the first fall since last September.
"All are signs of nascent improvement in the UK economy."
The RTI data has varied quite considerably around the country with the strongest month-on-month growth occurring in London and the South East, up 2.6 per cent with the South West and Wales closely following with 2.5 per cent.
Figures were weaker in the Midlands at 1.5 per cent gain and the North with only 0.2 per cent.
Denison added: "We had expected to see healthier footfall figures at the end of Q1 going into Q2, on the back of a gradual recovery in the economy, and it’s good to see some emerge.
"However, conditions remain weak and variable. Retailing is very sensitive to disposable household income and this is likely to shrink again in the near future.
"Inflation is expected to hit three per cent in Q2 while wage growth is travelling in the opposite direction. So there may well be another bump in the road immediately ahead; it’s certainly too early to talk about a retail revival.
"On the upside, the significant rise in equity prices could help repair confidence and the HElp to Buy scheme should stimulate the housing market, which helps drive retail demand.
"There is a sense that we are now out of the ‘groundhog’ period into something new."