Cold winds blow in shoppers to the high street

Colder temperatures and the January sales drove shoppers back to the high street last month as retailers rejoiced a recovery from early winter’s grim trading, reports The Telegraph.

Shoppers’ footfall in January rose by 1.2 per cent on a year ago, compared to the 2.2 per cent slide in December, according to figures by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard.

The three main kinds of retail destinations – the high street, retail parks and out of town centres – posted an uptick in shopper numbers reporting a rise in footfall, the first time this has happened in more than five years.

The British high street posted a 0.2 per cent rise in footfall, compared to the 4 per cent drop in December; shopping centres were broadly flat, compared to the 1.6 per cent fall the previous month; while retail parks increased footfall by 5.2 per cent, well ahead of December’s 2.1 per cent rise and above the 3-month average rate of 3 per cent.

“The improvement in shopper footfall witnessed in January provided a timely and welcome fillip to retailers at the start of the year, with retail parks once again recording a stellar performance”, said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.

The majority of non-food retailers endured a torrid festive trading season as the mildest December on record hit demand for typically more expensive heavy winter coats and woolly jumpers.

Shops also suffered one of the wettest months on record, with rainfall four times more than average in the North and hugely disruptive flooding, which prompted people to stay indoors and shop online.

As a result, typical outperformers such as Next and Sports Direct were forced to report a slowdown in December shop sales.

“The increase in footfall across all retail destination types, the first since December 2011, alongside the rise in spending in January, finally demonstrates what is well known – that bricks and mortar shopping environments are still important to consumers”, said Diane Wehrle , marketing and insights director at Springboard.