by Scott Bicheno
Despite two bank holiday weekends, retail footfall in May barely climbed above the depressed levels of April according to the latest figures from SPSL's Retail Traffic Index. The RTI rose by just 0.3 points month-on-month, but, more significantly, was down yet again year-on-year - this time by 0.5%. May also recorded the worst ever month of the new millennium for retail traffic numbers in London & the South East in absolute terms and also was down 5.2% year on year.
According to Dr Tim Denison, Director of Knowledge Management at SPSL, "This is more disappointing news for retailers, and confirms their own widespread concerns. All credible sources have been reporting a general downturn in shopping numbers since before Christmas.
"The real news comes when this trend is compared with breaking data from the banking sector. Together they indicate that consumers, for the first time in recent years, are electing to pay back some of their outstanding credit card debt rather than go out shopping and add to it. This change in discretionary spend is strong evidence that the UK consumer is finally feeling the strain of over a trillion pounds of debt and is taking action to get to grips with it."