The Synovate Retail Traffic Index (RTI) figures for March 2009, released today also show footfall is down only marginally by 0.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2008, despite Easter falling in March last year.
Analysts say the UK retail footfall are unexpectedly strong and Synovate is predicting that shops will be busier still in April with a year-on-year growth of 0.7 per cent.
Shopper numbers are also expected to be 4.1 per cent higher over the Easter weekend than they were in 2008.
Synovate retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison explained:
“We shouldn't over-egg the significance of one month's figures, nor should we be over-surprised that shoppers were out and about in greater numbers after a very cold and financially depressing winter.”
“Despite Easter being in that month, March 2008 was a particularly weak comparator. The early Easter failed to deliver its normal rush to the shops. Looking at the broader picture, shopper numbers in the full quarter one of 2009 were down 2.6 per cent year-on-year, compared to minus 3.3 per cent in quarter four 2008 (versus Q4 2007),” he added.
Denison continued: “We might be approaching the end of the worst of the downturn and that alone should give the retail industry a whiff of a reason to be more optimistic about the future.”
Although Synovate's figures show that footfall is robust that is not to say that this inevitably follows through to sales, with conversion rates still fluid. Denison explained: “We can see from our traffic and transactions data that shoppers will spend if the product that they are looking for is at a suitably irresistible price point and if the service is appropriate.
“The fact is that for some consumers their levels of disposable income are up by as much as 20 per cent in 2009, largely due to lowering interest rates on home loans.”