The Retail Traffic Index figures show the number of shopping trips to non-food stores experienced a 6.7 per cent drop on January. This compares with a drop of 3.7 per cent in January against that same month a year ago.
Synovate retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison said: “Much as we would all like to be seeing at least some sign of germination if not actual green shoots of recovery, these figures show that non-food shopping is still down the order on people’s lifestyle and living agenda.
“There is a sniff of some good news here, however. The first two weeks of February had some very severe weather, which curbed many shopping trips, restricting them to essential or local outings only. Given that, we should be somewhat heartened by the figures, which are marginally better than in January, when numbers were down by 3.7 per cent year-on-year.
“In addition, we are not seeing shopper numbers fall into the minus four per cent or more year-on-year ‘drop-zone’, a figure which we consider to indicate a serious change in shopper behaviour requiring something of a big fix. I think therefore that retailers generally, even in the sectors most hit by the downturn such as furniture, white goods and other big-ticket items, should be encouraged by this.
“I believe that the ball is very much in the retailers’ court. The message is that the shoppers are still coming into your stores, but how can you persuade them to buy from you rather than from anywhere else? I have no doubt that the retailers’ buying, merchandising and operational teams are working extremely hard to answer that very question.”
Denison concluded: “Although it is still difficult to see any signs of retail recovery from our figures retailers continue to have the opportunity to convert visits into sales – a challenge I have no doubt many will successfully rise to.”