Shopper numbers fall in wake of war in Iraq

Shopper traffic fell by almost 5 per cent last week as war on Iraq began.

The drop was lower than some retailers had feared, and came in the context of a general retail sales slowdown.

According to FootFall, shopper numbers were down 4.7 per cent year on year for the week commencing March 17.

SPSL, another monitoring firm, reported that on Monday and Tuesday shopper traffic was down 3.4 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively year on year.

However, FootFall marketing manager David Smyth believed various factors were influencing shopper behaviour. 'The war will affect consumer confidence, but last week was probably the warmest March week on record and people will have found better things to do than shop,' he said.

Data on tax free shopping transactions indicate that retailers dependent on tourists for a significant proportion of sales are suffering.

According to Global Refund, UK tax free sales fell by 47 per cent last week. Tax free shoppers from the US account for most transactions in the UK - their transactions fell by 27 per cent year on year.

Retailers' views on the consumer outlook were mixed. Signet chief executive Terry Burman said: 'Low consumer confidence in the UK and the US is affecting all retailers.'

Supermarket groups have reported evidence of consumer stockpiling of emergency items in the wake of fears of terrorist reprisals.