there is growing evidence that consumers are opening their minds, wallets and purses to shop and spend a little more this year
The first retail performance metric to be released ahead of Christmas showed renewed vigour on the high street in November and positive indications for December. The Retail Traffic Index (RTI), compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance, reports that 9.8% more shoppers in the UK visited non-food stores in November compared with October. This represents 0.7% fewer trips than last November, the best year-on-year comparator for 12 months.
“The significant rise in shopper numbers in November was unexpected, but very welcome,” comments Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “It’s an early Christmas present for retailers, if this was translated into extra sales, and one that will ease the jitters at this crucial time of the year. Coming on the back of the greater than expected fall in inflation in October, these figures provide further confirmation that headwinds are easing.
"Though annual wage awards are still running behind inflation - meaning that the squeeze on disposable income hasn’t lessened - the evidence is some consumers are feeling more inclined to spend a little bit more and save a little bit less. This new-found confidence stems primarily from their sense of greater job security, however, the scale of the uplift isn’t explained by this factor alone.”
The RTI shows that shopper numbers surged in the final week of the month (w/c 17th November). Footfall that week rose across the nation by 4.7% on the week before and by 3.2% on the same week of the previous year. The strong year-on-year uplift is partially the consequence of heavy flooding last year that prevented people from getting to the shops in certain parts of the country.
The strong end to the month also suggests some behavioural shifts.
“Coming towards the end of a taxing year for consumers, the surge in footfall in late November implies that consumers want to take some of the stress out of Christmas this year, by planning and undertaking some of their shopping early,” says Denison. “Whether they are anxious that some of the popular presents such as the Xbox One and PS4 will be in short supply as we move into December, or whether the threat of a cold snap is encouraging a ‘bird in the hand’ mentality is not clear, but what we do know is that shoppers have made an early move.”
Retail traffic levels in all regions showed marked improvements on October’s figures and represents the most positive countrywide set of RTI figures of the year. In three regions, Northern England, Scotland & N Ireland and London & The South East, numbers were higher than in November 2012. For the two former regions this represented the first month of year-on-year growth for 12 months.
Footfall change: November 2013 vs November 2012
Scotland & Northern Ireland +2.9%
North of England +0.4%
The Midlands -2.2%
South West England & Wales -3.6%
London & The South East +0.1%
Footfall change: November 2013 vs October 2013
Scotland & Northern Ireland +4.6%
North of England +13.9%
The Midlands +11.8%
South West England & Wales +8.7%
London & The South East +7.0%
The absence of a clear trend in footfall data over recent months makes the December forecasts more challenging than ever this year. However, Ipsos Retail Performance believes that the momentum in November will result in year-on-year growth being carried forward into December. It predicts that the Retail Traffic Index will increase by 0.6% over December 2012.
The regional forecasts show varying fortunes up and down the country. London & The South East, together with The North of England, are predicted to record the best year-on-year comparisons with The Midlands bringing up the rear.
Forecast footfall change: December 2013 vs December 2012
Scotland & Northern Ireland +1.3%
North of England +1.7%
The Midlands -2.9%
South West England & Wales -2.3%
London & The South East +1.7%
Every year retailers are eager to get their campaigns off to a busy start in the knowledge that wintry weather can decimate footfall at any time, culminating in lost sales that cannot easily be recovered. Ipsos Retail Performance’s first benchmark of how the campaign is shaping up will come at the end of this week – 5 weeks out from Christmas. Footfall would be on track to register indicative growth for the month over last year if this week (w/c 24th November 2013) realises 10% uplift on last week (w/c 17th November 2013).
“We’re not anticipating a record-breaking Christmas for retailers on the high street, but there is growing evidence that consumers are opening their minds, wallets and purses to shop and spend a little more this year,” continues Denison. “We believe this will translate into both store and on-line traffic and sales. The channels are becoming increasingly interdependent through the likes of click-and-collect, pop-up shops and showrooming, ensuring that retailers are maximising the full value of their ongoing investments.”
He concludes: “Our take from the November figures is that consumers are determined to be better prepared this year, content to bank some gift purchases early and rely less on finding last-minute, price-slashed bargains, in the quest for a less stressful Christmas.”
The Ipsos Retail Traffic Index is derived from more than one billion visits to retail stores across the UK.
The next Retail Traffic Index update will be released by Ipsos Retail Performance on the 4th of December.
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About Ipsos Retail Performance
Ipsos Retail Performance provides footfall monitoring solutions, shopper tracking systems and in-store behavioural research to retailers worldwide. Its core products - Shopper Count, Shopper Interact and Shopper Engage – scientifically measure all aspects of a shopper experience from store entry to exit. It supplies national and international retailers with essential business metrics to drive accountability and performance improvement.
Ipsos Retail Performance is home to the Retail Traffic Index series, which for over 10 years has been the industry’s leading tracker of national, regional and sector retail footfall trends. It is also co-founder of the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank, offering thought leadership on the state of retail health and the future of retailing.
More information on Ipsos Retail Performance can be found at
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