January and February were slow trading periods for many retailers, yet the warmest March since 1997 and the sunniest on record since 1929 brought the footfall national average up by 6.4 per cent on the previous month, but down 3.4 per cent year-on-year.
The Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which monitors the volume of shoppers in non-food stores across the UK, released the data.
The Index forecast for April was a further increase in shopper footfall of 9.4 per cent over March. However the return of the wet weather, combined with financial pressures on household incomes, has now dampened that expectation.
Dr Tim Denison, head of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, commented: “March footfall brought some welcome respite for retailers, especially those selling products which people naturally go out and buy if spring is in the air and they want to tidy up their garden, do a bit of DIY or invite friends around for a barbecue.
“If we had also been basking in sunshine this month, then that strong upward trend may have continued, but the inclement weather is washing away those hopes.”
However, IPSOS has suggested that the weather is not the only reason why consumers are avoiding their daily or weekly shopping lists.
Denison said: “Fuel prices are at record levels, energy prices continue to rise and people are now dipping into their savings as well as their disposable income – this is not a good time for them, nor the retailers who normally benefit from their much-needed custom.”
RTI footfall figures for January and February have already shown a slow start to retail this year, but despite a promising march, the outlook remains grim.
“Spring, good weather, and forthcoming events including the Games and Queen’s Jubilee can’t come soon enough for retailers,” added Denison.