The first week of December saw 14.5% fewer shoppers in non-food stores than the same week last year, according to the Synovate Retail Traffic Index.
The drop has been blamed on the cold snap which caused heavy snow and freezing weather conditions. At the height of last week’s bad weather, shopper numbers were down by 22.3% year on year. The RTI was also down against the previous week by 1.5%.
The regions most affected by the bad weather were those that saw the weakest footfall levels. In Northern England, store traffic for the week of 28 November was 20.4% lower than last year and 8.7% down on the previous week. In Scotland, the numbers were almost as bad: down 19.3% year on year and 2.5% week on week.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Synovate Retail Performance, said: “Sackfulls of snow will have delighted many children, but they were not what retailers would have wished for at this early stage of their seasonal campaigns.We had anticipated 2010 being a ‘slow burn’ Christmas, but we certainly didn’t envisage double-digit drops in shopper numbers against last year in the first week of December. Most alarming of all is that footfall last week was actually lower than the previous week.The distribution and logistics services deployed for internet retailing will be tested by the extra demand created out of the cold snap as well as the conditions themselves. Online order fulfilment will be challenged by the inevitable delivery delays.”
He continued: “We should also point out the upside. All too often in the first week of December I hear shoppers saying that they don’t feel festive and they aren’t prepared to start thinking about Christmas just yet. This year is different. The snow will alert people to the fact that Christmas Day is under three weeks away and will help kick start people’s Christmas planning and gift buying. In parts of the country where shoppers are less affected by the wintry conditions, we should therefore see numbers strengthen considerably this week. Elsewhere the outlook for this week remains bleaker.”