Last month’s cold snap took its toll on retail, with non-food stores reporting five per cent fewer customers than in January 2009.
According to Synovate’s Retail Traffic Index, the drop is the biggest since January 2005 when it was down 5.2 per cent. The month-on-month fall of 27.5 per cent compared to December 2009 was slightly better than forecast.
Synovate analyst Tim Denison said it was going to be another tough year for the High Street.
“In terms of damage to the national footfall figures, it was the heavy and persistent snow falls across many parts of the country during the month that had the most impact, giving retailers the worst possible start to the year,” he said.
“When advised to travel ‘only if essential’, recreational shopping failed to fit the bill, adding to retailers’ woes. At its worst on the 6th, numbers were down 30 per cent nationally, and for days after the scene was little better.”
Dennison added that January’s VAT increase (back up to 17.5 per cent) had provided impetus for shoppers to bag a bargain before the rise and, even though many prices had not risen, consumers were not taking the risk of having to pay more for goods.