Footfall bucks forecasts

The latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) figures from research group SPSL show that November was better than anticipated.
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Footfall on the high street was up by 2.7% on October, but still down by 0.8% on November 2006.

SPSL’s retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denison, said: “It’s lovely to be able to bring some good news to the party this month, as pressures build in the run-up to Christmas. We had forecast that retail traffic would fall by 1.7% in the month against last year, so the decline of just 0.8% shows that activity on the high street has held up well in November.

“The long spell of cold, but dry weather was welcome particularly to the fashion sector. Key to it was that the period was sustained. When weather conditions oscillate at this time of year, people don’t form a mindset that they really need a new winter coat or pair of boots, but when the cold snap endures the initial thought is re-enforced and this can then trigger a shopping expedition.

“The other major stimulant last month was the arrival of the i-Phone in some UK stores. Though distribution is limited to just two of the main retailers, the rest have ran counter-strategies and shoppers have been actively exploring the various offers.

“2007 has been an altogether quirky year for UK retailing. It has been difficult to predict right from the onset. Retailers have struggled to get into any rhythm over what is selling and what’s not; hard trends have simply not emerged. Demand has been fickle, making it hard for retailers to buy ahead with any certainty.

“We are all expecting next year to be tougher, but the focus of attention right now is the runway up to the Christmas take-off. We are not seeing signs of panic or distress on the high street. Indeed, there is a feeling of calm serenity, but we await to see whether the storm is one of frenzied shopping or ill winds.

“There has been nothing to throw us off our long-term forecast made in September. SPSL is expecting to see the number of shopping trips made over December fall by 2.1% against last year – so neither a ‘famine nor feast year’ for retailers, but an outcome that I’m sure they would settle for. We shall see how things actually pan out over the coming weeks, but at this stage everything is still to play for.”

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