September proves solid month for retail footfall

Latest Retail Traffic Index figures for the month show 0.1 per cent rise in footfall year-on-year.
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Latest Retail Traffic Index figures for the month show 0.1 per cent rise in footfall year-on-year.

The figures from Synovate Retail Performance also show footfall was down by 8.3 per cent against August this year, a reflection of normal seasonal trends.

Looking at a longer timeframe, the third quarter of 2009 registered a 0.8 per cent fall year-on-year, only slightly worse that the comparison in quarter two, when the index stood 0.3 per cent lower year-on-year.

Synovate retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison commented: “Given all the gloom that surrounded retailing at the start of the year, it is quite remarkable how well both footfall and sales figures have actually stood up in 2009.

"That’s not to say that our attitudes to shopping and behaviour patterns haven’t changed – they clearly have – we are all far more considered and cautious these days. Yet retailers have taken up the baton and run with it, providing us generally with better value, less frivolity and more relevance. As a result we are all still out there spending, to some extent at least.

“In my mind, it remains far too early to declare the consumer crunch in remission, but for three of the last four months, footfall has matched last year’s levels, and that is certainly building a bow-wave of hope.

“Nobody quite knows how the inevitable cuts in public spending and the pending rise in direct and indirect taxes, particularly VAT, will affect confidence levels and spending, but the risk is that we talk ourselves into another downward spiral. If we should take anything from the recession so far, it should be that we will survive it, and not to be too pessimistic in our outlook.

“Despite everything, retailing has remained more resilient in the recession than many other sectors. It has adapted remarkably well to the changing market conditions and we should ignore this at our peril.”