High Street busier than expected

Retail footfall better than anticipated in August with 3.9 per cent rise month-on-month.
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The Experian National Retail Footfall Index results for last month reverses three consecutive months of falling numbers, despite the poor economic environment.

The year-on-year trend also shows a slight increase of 0.4 per cent. The pattern of was mirrored online as Hitwise reports traffic to online retailers was up 3.5 per cent year-on-year.

Out-of-town retail centres reversed their negative trend of the past quarter by registering a month-on-month rise of 4.4 per cent and a 0.2 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

Jonathan de Mello, director of retail consultancy at Experian said: “In the past few months, the level of out-of town retail activity has been adversely affected by the prohibitive cost of petrol. However, since supermarkets began slashing the cost of fuel in the second week of August, we have seen a significant rise in visits to out-of-town. This may have proved the catalyst for retail because in the second week of August, visits to out-of-town surged by almost five per cent.”

Robin Goad, director of research at Hitwise said: “The success of Team GB in Beijing had a positive impact on sports retailers. UK Internet traffic to websites in Hitwise's shopping and classifieds - sport and fitness category reached an all time high during the Olympic fortnight, and for the week ending August 23rd traffic to this category was up 36 per cent year-on-year.”

Matthew Sherwood, senior economist at Experian, said: “The FootFall data provides a surprising glimmer of hope in an otherwise dismal picture for retailers. If oil price falls are joined by declining food prices that would help to ease the burden of the credit crunch on retailers' fortunes. But retailers are still reporting that this summer has been dismal and it is hard to see how they are going to escape even further troubles in the months ahead, especially as the economy flirts with recession.

“Despite the rise in footfall we still forecast that sales volumes will contract between July and September, the first such fall since early 2006. The next 12 months are shaping up to be the slowest period for retailers since the early 1990s.”

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