The Synovate Retail Traffic Index (RTI) showed that retail footfall levels were up markedly by 4.4 per cent on April 2008 and up by 7.6 per cent month-on-month against March 2009.
Synovate retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison commented: “Whilst we are delighted with the healthy year-on-year and month-on-month uplifts, we would be ill-advised to see the figures as sure signs of the long-awaited ‘green shoots of recovery’.”
The figures were boosted somewhat by Easter falling in April this year along with good weather conditions.
Denison continued: “More unusual than either of these factors though is the boost that we believe has been given to local retailers by the ‘stay at home’ policy that people have adopted during the spring breaks.
“Rather than choose to hop on a plane and pick up on holiday offers abroad, it seems many of us have been very happy this year to stay put, enjoy days out or pursue short breaks within the UK, which has certainly bolstered local business.”
Synovate is not predicting another strong month for May, but believes it will be steady, as consumer confidence and the return to the shops continues.
Denison said: “Year-on-year we forecast shopper numbers to be lower by 2.7 per cent over May 2008, on a par with our figure for quarter one released a month ago.” (NB shopper numbers in the full quarter one of 2009 were down 2.6 per cent year-on-year).
Denison concluded: “We believe that we are beginning to bounce along the bottom of the downturn rather than continuing to plummet. However, the situation is still very fluid and far from stable.
“There remain huge pressures on shoppers and retailers alike; not least food price inflation, still-rising unemployment, rising vehicle fuel bills and unhelpful exchange rates.”