Non-food shopping trips in April dropped four per cent compared to the same month in 2007, according to research from the Retail Traffic Index put together by analyst firm SPSL.
However April footfall was up 2.9 per cent compared to March this year, when Easter failed to provided an expected sales boost.
“At minus four per cent it is the worst percentage drop since November 2006, when some internet purchasing and a good deal of pre-Christmas internet research were starting to have a significant effect on people’s early Christmas shop-visiting patterns,” said SPSL’s retail psychologist Dr Tim Denison. “We must bear in mind, also, that 2007 was such an erratic year for retailing.
"The long stretch of fine, summer weather in April, coinciding with Easter, certainly brought the shoppers out last year, so despite the negative indicators from so many quarters, perhaps we shouldn’t be guilty of talking ourselves into a worse state than actually exists. Granted the marketplace is tough, but it is not cataclysmic.
“We believe that the rate of year-on-year decline in shopper numbers that we have seen at the start of 2008 is now reaching a new plateau. We don’t expect it to fall much below the 4% year-on-year deficit mark over the coming months, though in itself this is challenging enough for retailers to deal with, and it is hard to see when there is likely to be any significant improvement."