Easter boom on high street as Britons spend holiday shopping

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The Independent Online

Shoppers stormed the high street over the Easter weekend, shrugging off continuing concerns over the economy on what is traditionally retailers' second most important weekend.

Footfall figures from Experian for the Friday and Saturday of the extended holiday showed a 4.3 per cent increase in shopper numbers compared to the same period last year, when the country was still mired in the worst recession since before the Second World War.

The Experian FootFall UK National Index for March 2010 – which includes data up to the end of Sunday 4 April – was less impressive, but still revealed a year-on-year positive performance of 1.0 per cent and a modest month-on-month uplift of 0.1 per cent.

The company said that the retail park sector offered retailers a significant boost – experiencing a substantial year-on-year increase of 7.8 per cent in shopper numbers.

"The modest month-on-month uplift of 0.1 per cent was buoyed by the wet weather conditions, influencing shoppers to head to the high street over the Easter weekend. It's also likely that the use of online promotions to drive in-store shopper traffic played a key role in offering retailers some welcome relief," Anita Manan, a senior analyst at Experian, said of the figures.

However, within the national figure there were sharp regional variations, with the North-east showing a 3.9 per cent fall in footfall and the North-west, Eastern region and Scotland all registering declines. London showed no increase. At the same time Wales and the South-west showed a stunning 13.5 per cent rise, with both the West and East Midlands also in positive territory.

According to Experian, internet visits to retail websites over the Easter holiday period also increased – by 0.8 per cent between 2009 and 2010.

"Retailers did particularly well on Easter Monday, which was the fifth busiest day for online retailers so far during 2010, with visits increasing by 3.6 per cent between 2009 and 2010. Much of this growth came from department stores and house and garden retailers, with Amazon UK, John Lewis, Tesco Direct and B&Q all performing well," said Robin Goad, the director of Experian hitwise.

However, on the same day there were bleak figures from the eurozone, with official data for February showing that sales were down 0.6 per cent compared with January – worse than had been expected by analysts – and down 1.1 per cent when compared with the same period in 2009. Figures for all 27 nations in the European Union showed no growth in retail sales between January and February, Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency said.