Figures released today from the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), the national metric measuring the number of shoppers visiting non-food retail stores, show that the number of non-food shopping trips made in August was up by 0.1 per cent on the corresponding month of 2007 and by 1.0 per cent on July 2008.
SPSL’s retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denison said: “Though the in-the-black monthly figures will be welcomed by retailers, we shouldn’t jump to any false conclusions about the underlying state of affairs in retailing. This year, the summer footfall ‘peak week’ arrived later than usual, somewhat distorting the year-on-year comparisons.
"The last week of July is normally the busiest mid-year period, but this year it has fallen into the first week of August, flattering the month’s overall performance.
"It’s normally the final Sale bargains that drive the summer peak, but I think people simply ran out of enthusiasm for Sale shopping this year, such has been their longstanding and ubiquitous presence. The early August surge was, instead, symptomatic of the welcome arrival of new season lines and new back-to-school offers and of general relief at the phasing-out of no-longer-engaging summer Sales.
"August’s figures have also been strengthened, no doubt, by sterling’s weakness against the Euro, encouraging more Euro-zoners to shop in the UK and by the reported rise in the number of British holidaymakers deciding to holiday at home. The success of our Olympians and its resulting feel-good effect along with the start of the football season also bolstered interest in sportswear and related goods during the month.
“Despite this brief fillip, our underlying prognosis for retail footfall remains unchanged. We’re expecting the trend to remain negative for the rest of 2008, but there is little to suggest it will worsen. The latest running 3 month figure shows the RTI to be down by 1.1% against 2007, well within the overall 3% drop that we forecast for 2008 as we entered the year. With attention now turning to Christmas, retailers assailed by gloom in every media will be able to take some real comfort from that.”