October storms dent high street footfall

October storms led to a sharp decline in footfall on the high street last month as retailers began to see the first signs of a slowdown in consumer spending, figures show.

UK retail footfall was 9.1% down on October last year, with areas of the UK affected by storms Ophelia and Brian particularly badly hit, according to the Ipsos Retail Performance Retail Traffic Index.

Half-term week was especially disappointing for retailers, with the last week of the month resulting in a 12.6% drop in footfall across the UK's high streets compared with the same time last year.

High street footfall dipped in October.
High street footfall dipped in October (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The figures follow the latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey, which showed the steepest fall in retail sales volumes in eight-and-a-half years.

Ipsos said "various data sources" were beginning to show a slowdown in consumer spending, with entertainment and leisure pursuits the hardest hit.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: "We expect to see signs of recovery in November's figures, as the stark deficit this month is not simply down to the weekend storms but is also symptomatic of shoppers holding back in anticipation of early launches of Black Friday offers.

"Retailers will not welcome this decline in store footfall, but they should treat the size of the downturn as a blip in this year's figures.

"The interest rate rise is likely to encourage consumers to make the most of the Black Friday offers, pulling forward some of their Christmas shopping into November, although online and mobile will be the main benefactors of this.

"The rise in interest rates is something that many consumers will not have experienced in their adulthood, so any reaction in terms of spending less and saving more is likely to be slow."

The index is expected to return to month-on-month growth in November, with footfall levels predicted to rise 1.7% over October and also close the gap compared with last November to minus 2.9%.

Dr Denison added: "The UK high street is going through the wringer just now, and the last thing retailers need now is for ongoing demand to soften significantly.

"Uncertainty over a Brexit trade deal, and the knock-on effect it will have on import logistics, will play heavy on the future plans for retailers.

"Any steps that can be taken by the Chancellor in the forthcoming Budget that will improve the investment climate would no doubt be welcomed by retailers."

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