July marks further decline in shop visitors
Figures released today from the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), the national metric measuring the number of shoppers visiting retail stores, from analyst SPSL, show that numbers fell by 2.0% in July against the same month of 2007, but rose by 8.1% against a very lacklustre June. SPSL’s retail psychologist, Dr Tim Denison explains; “The latest data show a further slowdown on the year-on-year comparison which I’m sure will be mirrored by the batch of consumer statistics that generally follow ours. The decline signals a gradual softening in demand, rather than anything more dramatic; a time when perhaps shoppers are mentally re-adjusting their spending priorities and challenging their old habits; when they are taking stock of their unfamiliar circumstances and being more circumspect looking forwards.”
“The malls and high streets are still awash with Sales signs in their windows, despite starting their campaigns in early June this year. Our figures would indicate that they are no longer serving their purpose so effectively this late in the season. Price reductions are not the motivating factor that they were at the start of the summer or even a year ago. Letting Sales run on until stocks are cleared does little to re-invigorate retailing at a time when it is most needed.
“With consumer confidence riding so low in this period of economic change, for many it is more a question of putting ‘needs’ over ‘wants’ and looking at replacement rather than addition. Any thoughts that the shopper can still be seduced into making impulse purchases may be unrealistic at this late stage. Retailers might indeed be better served turning their efforts towards clarifying their new season offers and editing choice sets to provide ranges that are in tune with the current clime.”
“Our prediction remains the same: that the gap in retail footfall against last year will not fall below 4%, though we are expecting the deficit to continue to widen from the 2% figure in July. Bear in mind that floods in parts of the country last year kept shoppers away, so this latest figure paints a slightly better picture than is actually the case. That said, the petrol price rises also continued to be a dampener on shopping behaviour in July, though its consequence was more a matter of where people went rather than discouraging them altogether.
“Regional shopping centres continued to be penalised, with shopper numbers down 2.4% year-on-year, slightly worse than the national average, but local high streets were resurgent. There, shopper numbers last month were down by only 0.9% year-on-year, proving that there is always some good news to be found. With more people expected to holiday at home this summer, we may see coastal resorts and other mainstream destinations emerging as hot spots over the next month or so.”