Insight from footfall figures as opaque as ever

Fooftall data from Experian showed a year-on-year decline of 4% for the recent double Bank Holiday weekend that was much worse than the 2.1% experienced in April and the preceeding two months.

Measuring their actions is easy, explaining them is hard.

This heavier drop was apparently explained away by the fact that the weather was very good. To quote Experian: “If the weather is good, it will lure shoppers towards the shopping centres, but it can also increase the amount of short breaks especially around Easter and Bank Holidays.”

This seems to say that the weather could have had a good or a bad effect on footfall! But what really adds to the confusion with explaining the latest footfall figures are some stats from Synovate.

For April it found traffic down 2.6%, however, London bucked the trend with tourists driving footfall up by 3.9%. This was in contrast to average declines around the rest of the country of 5%.

The rest of the country stays at home but London goes shopping.

So this means that visitors boosted footfall in London. But how do you therefore explain the decline attributed to the short breaks scenario put forward by Experian?

Surely many of these people would have taken their breaks in the UK and are therefore tourists to the locations they’ve visited and they pop into stores and spend in a manner akin to those people who visited London.

Certainly when I take a break I find I’m in more shops than usual and my spending goes through the roof in comparison to when I’m at home.

Amid this confusion, there is only one real conclusion to be drawn and that is the continued declines that are being experienced in most of the UK, which is in stark contrast to the continued buoyancy seen in the capital.

Only this weekend Mothercare distributed a list of 121 stores that it wants to offload, which includes the 30-plus outlets that remain loss-making. My guess is that few of these are in London.

The silver lining of this desperate situation is that it is giving some independent retailers a chance to take units on the high street.

It came to my attention this week that bespoke tailoring firm Norton & Townsend has taken on a three-month lease in Birmingham for a mere £1 and is looking at lots more units around the country for a similar rock bottom price.

Regardless of what we are to make of the conflicting  footfall explanations, this certainly brings a whole new meaning to the term pound shops.