Figures reveal consumer nervousness

There may be more people on the High Street, but they?re still nervous about spending.
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For the first time in nine months, shopper numbers rose year-on-year, according to the Experian Retail FootFall Index.

The numbers of shoppers increased by 0.1 per cent in April this year, compared to April 2007. Month-to-month, consumers on the high street rose 0.9 per cent in April compared to March.

The RFI showed the growth was driven mainly by performances in London and the South East, where as other areas actually saw a decline.

However, as reported by ToyNews earlier in the week, consumers are becoming increasingly nervous about spending, with the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) Distributive Trades Survey revealing 52 per cent of retailers experiencing a drop in sales, year-on-year.

Both Experian and CBI point out the timing of Easter and the looming credit crunch as factors to be considered for the changes.

But while CBI predicts sales to slow even further in May, Experian takes a more optimistic view.

Jonathan de Mello, director of Retail Consultancy at Experian, said: “These are good results but we should remain cautious and not get too far ahead of ourselves. History leads us to expect a month-on-month drop in footfall between April and May with May bank holidays providing critical weekends for retailers.

“Given the tightening of consumers' belts, we expect May to be a tougher month all round. Streamlining store estates will be at the forefront of retailers' minds and greater efforts will be made to ensure any shopping visits are successfully converted into sales.

“It is hoped that after April's snow fall, some welcome May sunshine will inspire shoppers to purchase new summer clothing ranges; as well as outdoor leisure items such as barbecues, DIY and gardening accessories. With April showing some signs of shopper confidence stabilising, the retail winners will be those who do most to convince the shopper to purchase.”

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