UK retail traffic improved at its strongest year-on-year rate in any month for 11 years, excluding Easter distortions, with retailers benefiting from a 3.7% rise in footfall according to the latest Retail Traffic Index.

Ipsos Retail Performance, the global retail and footfall consultant, compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

July started strongly, with footfall during the first week at its highest peak since the final week of 2014. This then repeated itself week-on-week for the remainder of the month, culminating in the last week of July being the busiest week of the year so far. Average weekly footfall jumped 10.9% on June, the strongest summer hike since 2006.

All five regions of the UK secured year-on-year growth for the first time since January 2015. Of all the areas, footfall growth on 2014 was highest in Northern England for the fifth consecutive month, while the month-on-month bounce was felt strongest in Wales and The South West, areas which both benefit from being popular summer holiday destinations.

“Following a disappointing June, it’s apparent that retailers are right back on track this month,” commented Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“Shops got busier and busier as July rolled on. The good weather not only helped promote a feel good factor across the country, but also led to a rapid response from shoppers. The sun it seems was more effective than any set of strong economic indicators.

“We’ve seen real wage growth now for nine consecutive months, and currently it is at its highest rate since before the financial crisis, yet all it has taken is a bit of British sunshine to get everyone back out more regularly on the high street.”

Retailers will be keen to maintain this level of footfall through the remaining summer months. Personal finance expectations are forecasted to remain strong in Quarter 3 and retailers have continued to invest in revamping ranges, keeping prices competitive and communicating heavily with their customers.

Dr Denison continued:

“We have seen demand in the shops strengthening over the course of 2015, but  the looming interest rate rise will be forming a nagging doubt in the back of many people’s minds. The uncertainty that this brings may send ripples through the economy and consumer confidence, as it did after Mr Carney’s Mansion House speech just over a year ago.

“Whether the first rate rise will be sufficient to cause shoppers to start thinking about scurrying back into their safe houses is difficult to say. The consumer economy is stronger generally than it was this time last year, but austerity is still very much part of present day living in our society. Retailers should make hay whilst the sun continues to shine so strongly.”

Footfall change: July 2015 vs July 2014

Scotland & Northern Ireland +2.2%
North of England +7.5%
The Midlands +4.8%
South West England & Wales +2.7%
South East England & London +0.6%

Footfall change: July 2015 vs June 2015
Scotland & Northern Ireland +7.3%
North of England +9.7%
The Midlands +11.1%
South West England & Wales +14.0%
South East England & London +11.5%

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