Retailers suffered in March as footfall fell by -2.8% compared to last year, however growing in-store conversion rates resulted in 52.1% of stores improving the number of browsers being turned into buyers.

Global retail and footfall consultant Ipsos Retail Performance compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

A subdued performance over the Easter weekend, which delivered -2.9% fewer shopping trips than in 2015, moderated the holiday impact on the month’s figures. The all-important weekend for DIY, Homeware and Garden Centres was hampered by the poor weather, with these retailers showing a drop of -7% across the four-day period compared to last year.

Retailers did have reason to be happy however, with conversion rates improving across the board.

“Our Conversion Rate Tracker shows that 52.1% of stores delivered conversion rate improvements in the month over last year, helping to offset the slight drop in store footfall,” comments Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “This is testament to the operational success that the retailers’ store teams have achieved under challenging conditions. Retailers are working exceptionally hard to make every shopper count and the performance of shop floor teams is a major factor in this. Technology was the buzzword in retailing last year, but this year I’m repeatedly hearing it’s all about their people.”

Retail traffic in Q1 ended up being slightly down on Q1 2015, by -0.9%. Across the regions there was a disparity in fortunes. Wales and South-west England fared best at +2.3% year-on-year while London and South-east England suffered the worst at -3.9%.

Tim continues: “Against such a strong start in 2015, store footfall levels stood up well in comparison in Q1. The direction of travel is concerning though, with positive growth in January turning into a small deficit in February and a larger one in March, in line with the trend in consumer confidence. Footfall remains fickle, something that retailers can ill afford, especially after the introduction of the living wage.”