Published on 7 - May - 2009
High street sees strongest rise in footfall for five yearsPositive signs for retailers but experts warn not to view figures as "sure signs of green shoots of recovery".
The Synovate Retail Traffic Index figures for April 2009 revealed the strongest year-on-year rise in retail footfall for over five years, since February 2004.
Retail footfall levels were up markedly by 4.4% on April 2008 and up by 7.6% month-on-month against March 2009.
However, Synovate retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison warned retailers not to get too carried away by the good news. "Whilst we are delighted with the healthy year on year and month on month uplifts, we would be ill-advised to see the figures as sure signs of the long-awaited 'green shoots' of recovery.
The month in which Easter falls (April this year and March last year) flatters this year's figures somewhat. Clement weather conditions around the country have been kind too, and so home furnishings, garden centres and DIY have all benefited from the until-now repressed 'spring-clean' mentality.
He added: "More unusual than either of these factors though is the boost that we believe has been given to local retailers by the 'stay at home' policy that people have adopted during the spring breaks. Rather than choose to hop on a plane and pick up on holiday offers abroad, it seems many of us have been very happy this year to stay put, enjoy days out or pursue short breaks within the UK, which has certainly bolstered local business."
Looking ahead for May, Synovate doesn't anticipate another "stellar month" but believes sales will be steady, as consumer confidence and the return to the shops continues.
Year on year, the global market research company forecasts shopper numbers to be 2.7% lower over May 2008.
Mr Denison concluded: "We believe that we are beginning to bounce along the bottom of the downturn rather than continuing to plummet. However, the situation is still very fluid and far from stable. There remain huge pressures on shoppers and retailers alike ... Confidence is key to any recovery and it really does seem that people are getting out and about more, and adjusting to the new realities that many have never experienced before."
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