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Early Easter Brings Glimmer of Hope for Welsh Retailers

Retail footfall figures rose in March, with an early Easter and school holidays credited for providing an uplift.

Two sets of footfall figures show an increase. According to WRC-Sensormatic IQ data, Welsh footfall increased by 0.4% in March year-on-year, up from -8.0% in February. This is better than the UK average decrease of 1.3% year-on-year. In March, footfall in Cardiff increased by 0.3% year-on-year. This was up from -4.2% in February.

Meanwhile figures from MRI Software suggest that March witnessed a modest rise in retail footfall across Wales, with an increase of 3.3% compared to February. This is a significant improvement on last year when it declined by -4.9% for the same period. The company says this suggests that footfall trends are starting to stabilise in all retail destinations.

Sara Jones, Head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said:

“March shopper numbers moved into positive territory, with a small increase compared to the dire February figures. The early Easter bank holiday weekend and school holidays undoubtedly helped to drive shoppers back to retail destinations, with footfall showing a substantial increase in the final week of March.

“This is the first time in 12 months we’ve seen an uplift in shopper numbers, but the figures will be met with cautious optimism within the industry, and we are certainly some way off the potential for a retail recovery. The continued growth in real wages and easing shop price inflation should help support demand, as should cuts in employee national insurance contributions.

“The retail industry has set out their priorities for the new First Minister and his Cabinet. We need to see strong words of commitment to working with the retail industry to advance the opportunities for future growth, through bolstering the commitments in the retail action plan to delivering action on business rates.”

Carolyn Brownell, Executive Director of business improvement district FOR Cardiff, said: 

“Cardiff city centre businesses are navigating a challenging environment. There are positive signs, like the rise in footfall compared to February. Events like the FOR Cardiff and St David’s Into The Wild toy brick trail encouraged footfall over Easter. However significant pressures to business remain, which include a reduction in business rates relief.

“Given the changing ways people have been using city centres in recent years, footfall across high streets is an increasingly tricky metric for measuring retail performance. The movements of office workers are a key part of footfall and the impacts of fewer days in the office on non-essential retail spending are still not fully understood.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, said:

“An early, high-performing Easter helped put a spring in shoppers’ steps and this, combined with a boost from Mother’s Day and ambient store visits from school holidays, drove up shopper traffic numbers in March.  This meant we saw footfall returning a positive improvement on last year’s figures for the first time since April 2023.  While retailers will have welcomed the seasonal uplift in store visits last month, the choppy nature of footfall recovery we’ve seen over the past few months indicates that consumer confidence is yet to fully turn a corner, meaning we may see a bumpy recovery in shopper traffic in the months ahead.”

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