The destructive storms and flooding that besieged many parts of the country suppressed shopping in February, reflected in the latest footfall figures from Ipsos Retail Performance. Ipsos’ Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which draws from a sample of over 4000 non-food stores across the UK, reported a decline in footfall of 5.3% against February 2013 and a month-on-month fall of 12.2%. Hardest hit was South West England and Wales where numbers for the month fell 8.1% on 2013.

“The inclement weather proved to be very disruptive on many fronts last month and retailing was one of the unfortunate casualties,” comments Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “Extreme weather conditions can have quite an impact on store footfall, but it’s usually pretty short-lived. What we saw in February was unusual, in that most of the month was affected. After a couple of busier months that saw year-on-year growth, it’s disappointing to see footfall figures turn red again. February, though, is typically the quietest month of the year, so the consequences are not as serious as they would have been at other times.”

The week commencing 9th February, normally one that is boosted by Valentine’s Day trading, ended up being the quietest of the month. Footfall in the UK as a whole was 8.5% down on the same week the previous year. The situation that week was more extreme in South West England and Wales where shops saw 17% fewer customers.

“We see this just as a blip, rather than anything more significant,” adds Denison. “Consumer confidence is on the rise and households are prepared to spend a little more than they did last year. Perversely, over the coming months retailers stand to benefit from the damage caused by the weather, once loss adjusters have come and gone and householders are given approval to replace lost possessions. We expect year-on-year growth in footfall to return to the shops in March, despite Easter falling into the month last year.”

Footfall change: February 2014 vs February 2013

Scotland & Northern Ireland -7.3%
North of England -6.1%
The Midlands -4.9%
South West England & Wales -8.1%
South East England & London -2.8%

Footfall change: February 2014 vs January 2014

Scotland & Northern Ireland -9.6%
North of England -11.1%
The Midlands -11.3%
South West England & Wales -11.1%
South East England & London -15.5%