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Footfall figures ’hiccup’ in November due to increases in poor weather and online activity, says Synovate


UNITED KINGDOM — The latest Retail Traffic Index (RTI) figures from Synovate Retail Performance reveal an unexpected ’hiccup’ just when evidence was building that the UK consumer economy was beginning to recover. The number of visits measured to over 5,000 non-food UK shops in November fell by 0.8% against the same month in 2008 and showed a disappointing 1.0% rise on October’s figure

Synovate’s Dr Tim Denison explains the latest statistics, “We really had expected a stronger show of shopper numbers in November, following two months of year-on-year growth. Whilst there are good reasons for the disappointing numbers, they do not imply, however, that Christmas will be a wipe-out for retailers this year. Indeed, Synovate predicts a 4% increase in like-for-like sales this December.”

Despite some retailers offering ’mid season’ Sales, there was very little impetus at the start of the month, following the half term break. Over the first fortnight (which included Halloween and Bonfire night) the RTI was slightly higher (+0.3%) than over the corresponding weeks last year, but November was such a quiet month on the high street in 2008, that there is little comfort to be had from that uplift.

Over the second half of the month, the comparisons are worse still. Footfall levels were down by 1.7% against the same fortnight of November 2008. Where we’d normally see shopper numbers up by over 11% on the first two weeks of the month, this year the rise has only been 9%.

However, these disappointing retail traffic levels in November need to be put in some sort of context. Last year retailers were very conscious of the high stock levels they were carrying in the face of faltering demand in the run-up to Christmas. Marks & Spencer grabbed the headlines by deciding to launch a 20% discount day as early as the 20th of November last year. Many others instantly followed suit, anxious to stimulate sales and win their share of the ’Christmas cake’.

Denison continues, "This time around, retailers are far more comfortable with their seasonal stock levels and this is being reflected in their breadth and depth of promotional activity, or lack of it. In the last week of November, for example, PwC reported that the percentage of retailers offering promotions in the high street was down from 62% of the total last year to 43% this, and that the typical level of discounting stood at 25% rather than last year’s 40% norm.

"The incessant wet weather has, of course, also dampened shoppers’ enthusiasm to hit the high streets in search of early Christmas presents. This time of year, leaden skies and dark days challenge the resolve of even the hardiest and most forward-planning of shoppers. Instead, it seems many have elected to stay at home, doing their reconnaissance work and exploring the offers available from retailers on-line. Picking up on this, retailers themselves seem to have been generally more actively promoting early on-line sales this year, content to encourage the surge to their stores a little later.

“Whilst November remains the key month for online Christmas purchases we anticipate that shoppers will return to the high street in force in December, some disenchanted with delivery problems of shopping on-line, occasioned by goods arriving at empty houses and no one being available to sign for them. The resulting trips to distant depots on bleak industrial estates, arduous demands for photo id, and inconsistent customer service can soon take the glow off saving a few pounds, even in these economically challenging times.”

Synovate Retail Performance stands by its belief that December will be a solid year for shopper numbers. Its forecast, which has proven highly accurate over the last decade, predicts that retail traffic through the doors of non-food retailers will be 1.8% above levels last year. The BRC / KPMG Retail Sales Monitor tracks the Synovate RTI trend very closely, such that Synovate expects the anticipated uplift in traffic to yield a 4% like-for-like increase in sales when figures are released.

Synovate will be issuing footfall updates regularly up to and shortly after Christmas and the New Year.

Enquiries for interviews with Dr. Tim Denison should be directed to Theo Chalmers at Verve PR on 01908 275271 (weekdays) or 07932 004632.

About Synovate Retail Performance

Synovate Retail Performance provides footfall monitoring solutions, shopper tracking systems and in-store behavioural research to retailers worldwide. Its core products – Shopper Count, Shopper Interact and Shopper Engage – scientifically measure all aspects of a shopper experience from store entry to exit. Originally founded as Solution Products Systems Ltd (SPSL) in the UK in 1998, it was acquired by Synovate in December 2007 and now offers unrivalled global reach and scalability through Synovate’s network of in-country teams and three specialist hubs based in Europe, North America and the Far East.

It supplies national and international retailers with essential business metrics to drive accountability and performance improvement. Synovate Retail Performance harnesses powerful retail and shopper intelligence and creates real deployable insight, to deliver its mantra of “Measure, Manage, Improve” to clients.

Synovate Retail Performance is home to the Retail Traffic Index series, which for over 10 years has been the industry’s leading tracker of national, regional and sector retail footfall trends. It is also co-founder of the KPMG / Synovate Retail Think Tank, offering thought leadership on the state of retail health and the future of retailing. Synovate Retail Performance is part of Synovate Customer Experience, Synovate’s global business practice specialising in the profitable management of the total sum of all customer interactions.

For more information on Synovate Retail Performance click here.

About Synovate

Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group plc, generates consumer insights that drive competitive marketing solutions. The network provides clients with cohesive global support and a comprehensive suite of research solutions. Synovate employs over 6,400 staff across 62 countries.

For more information on Synovate visit


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