Making (Non)Sense of August's Retail Figures
Strange things are happening on London's high streets. In the retail doldrums we're currently experiencing, is it possible that there could be gaping holes in our knowledge?
Posted by Killian McAleese, 9th September 2011
It's Monday, 5th September and Bloomberg Businessweek reports on research carried out by Springboard suggesting that “Footfall in London Weathers Violent Riots.” Springboard, which monitors footfall across the UK, concluded that London saw a year-on-year rise of 0.9%, with around half of the city's high streets recording improvements on August 2010, apparently.
This, however, is in spite of the fact that August was, in retail terms, the worst month the industry saw for two years. Indeed Ben Sillitoe, editor of the industry publication Retail Gazette, also reported on Monday that the now well documented riots across the country had significantly impacted on retail sales.
The riots, and the fact that sales nationally saw a 2.2% decline against last year, could be seen to lead to a bit of a conundrum for commentators. Sales down, due to rioting: this, most likely, means that shops were closed, the less fortunate, damaged; and all saw a reluctance among shoppers to hit the high street – sales down.
But footfall up? While I find myself wondering whether the rioters themselves and the 16,000 police officers on the street were actually counted as legitimate footfall in this research, there is, unsurprisingly, more to this.
Footfall, in fact, was down 1.5% nationally, with London bucking the trend. Apparently the capital's footfall saw an initial dip at the start of the rioting, according to Diane Wehrle, Springboard's research director.
'More Savvy and Streetwise'
So how does London buck the trend in footfall but not necessarily in sales? The answer lies to some extent in the fact that numbers of high street shoppers are no longer a reliable industry metric in terms of correlating with sales. While an obvious relationship exists, a recent Experian UK National Retail Footfall Index report suggests that, "shoppers are now more savvy and streetwise in how, where, when and how often they shop," with the result that, "the link between visitor numbers and sales is less clear cut than before."
This may well be the case, but surely it also implies that there are simply gaps in current industry knowldge.
Why did London buck the footfall trend during August?
The riot cleanup?
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