"Brutal" month for UK retail as February footfall drops

Valentine’s Day may be a huge retail sales booster but it wasn’t enough in the UK last month. The latest Ipsos Retail Performance tracker showed footfall was down 6.8% year-on-year at physical stores and the supposedly-affluent London and the South East of England suffered the most with a more-than-11% drop.


UK stores weren't busy last month as footfall dropped again


It was the 10th consecutive fall and if that trend continues then stores, high streets and malls could be virtual ghost towns within just a few years.

The tracker also said that footfall was down for the entire month with no hint of relief. And it seems March might be bad too given current heavy snow that’s bound to affect store traffic for at least the first few days of the month.

That said, Valentine’s Day and school half-term week did offer up the best results with “slight improvements” even though they weren’t enough to reverse the downward trend.

February was also down compared to January with a 12.8% dip, worse than the 12.6% month-on-month dip this time last year.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance said: “The squeeze on consumer revenue remains palpable, making trading increasingly brutal. During February, it appears that shopping for essentials continued to be people’s spending priority.”

And he highlighted the problems for retailers with New Look seeking lower rents and both Toys R Us and Maplin having this week fallen into administration.

Is there anything to look forward to? Possibly not. As already mentioned, March will be hurt by snowfall and Dr Denison said that due to Easter falling earlier this year, “we’re not expecting the shops to be as busy as many would hope.”

But he added: “We do, however, remain upbeat and our forecast of -1.8% is bullish given the current climate. Late spring often sees an upturn in visits to physical stores as inquisitive shoppers explore new ranges and fashions.”

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