Latest figures from the Retail Traffic Index compiled by SPSL, show the number of non-food shopping trips in April was four per cent fewer than for the same month in 2007, but was up by 2.9 per cent on March.
SPSL’s retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denison said: "It is somewhat reassuring to show that there was a slight uplift in shopper numbers in April against a very quiet and depressing March, in which Easter failed to provide its normal stimulant. We generally expect April to be busier than March, but this is partly because Easter and the school holidays normally fall within the month. In times when we have had a March Easter, footfall has only risen by 1.1% on average between March and April, so a rise of more than double that average can only be seen as welcome news, despite March being so weak.
"The year-on-year comparison is less reassuring. At minus 4.0% it is the worst percentage drop since November 2006, when some internet purchasing and a good deal of pre-Christmas internet research were starting to have a significant effect on people’s early Christmas shop-visiting patterns. We must bear in mind, also, that 2007 was such an erratic year for retailing. The long stretch of fine, summer weather in April, coinciding with Easter, certainly brought the shoppers out last year, so despite the negative indicators from so many quarters, perhaps we shouldn’t be guilty of talking ourselves into a worse state than actually exists. Granted the marketplace is tough, but it is not cataclysmic.
"We believe that the rate of year-on-year decline in shopper numbers that we have seen at the start of 2008 is now reaching a new plateau. We don’t expect it to fall much below the 4% year-on-year deficit mark over the coming months, though in itself this is challenging enough for retailers to deal with, and it is hard to see when there is likely to be any significant improvement."