Synovate Retail Performance's Retail Traffic Index (RTI), dropped 1.3 per cent in February against the same month in 2009. The figure also fell month-on-month by 3.1 per cent against January’s figures.
Synovate director of Retail Intelligence, Tim Denison, explained: “After such a slow start to the year in January, retailers were hoping for better things last month, but our figures show little evidence of any respite.
"The fatigue that hit shoppers in January, after their short-lived buying frenzy at the end of December, persisted throughout February. The year-on-year comparison was better than January’s – which was down by five per cent on the same month in 2009 – but the first fortnight of February 2009 was disrupted by heavy snowfall, somewhat flattering the comparison."
“What we really need to understand is the underlying cause of the weak footfall. If it is the ongoing cold and inclement weather that is primarily keeping people away from the shops that is one thing, but if it is derived from an inherent deep-seated weakness in demand it is quite another matter.”
The end of several consumer stimulants including the reduced VAT rate, the stamp duty reduction on some properties and the car scrappage scheme means the economy now has to stand or fall on the strength of consumer demand.
Now the campaigns are over, it will be clearer to see whether the “borrow-and-spend” strategy that pulled spending forward into 2009 was at the expense of consumer spending in 2010.
Looking forward, Easter is slightly earlier than last year which will help boost footfall figures at the end of March but it may not be possible to see for quite some time whether consumer demand has begun to rise again following the economy formally leaving recession.