Retailers' hold-the-line strategy IS working

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Joined: Aug 6 1999

Retailers' hold-the-line strategy IS working

Latest figures from the Retail Traffic Index, the industry barometer of retail footfall, show that, this year, the many retailers who decided to 'hold the line' on early sales and heavy discounting may have found a winning strategy.

The RTI shows that the number of shopping trips for the week commencing 5th December was down just 1.3% year-on-year and up 5.0% on the previous week.

At first sight the figures do not look that bright for retailers, until you consider that last year many retailers held massive early sales to drive cashflow. Tim Denison, Director of Knowledge Management at SPSL believes that last week's Christmas shopping figures show retailers have won a vital, covert struggle with consumers.

"Everyone is well aware that Christmas shopping gets progressively later each year and retailers are mostly aware that they've created this situation by being panicked year by year into bigger and bigger pre-Christmas sales. Further evidence of this, if it were needed, is that shopper numbers for the last three weeks have been down against last year.

"However, retailers have taken a long hard look at this no-win situation and are stimulating cash flow with flash sales instead of full-on discounting.

"Consequently the deficit has narrowed and though footfall is still down this last week taken as a whole, we started to see year-on-year daily gains from Thursday onwards. 9th December may well go down as the tipping point of Christmas trading 2004 - the date that most retailers' shared strategy of 'holding the line' started paying dividends.

"It is clear that the flash sales have injected momentum into Christmas shopping this year and the results, generally, have given retailers encouragement to hold firm and desist moving to broad scale discounting, just two weeks out.

"This is a far healthier picture than we saw last year when retailers were almost into a Dutch auction scenario, such were the breadth and depth of competitive offers.

"These latest traffic figures demonstrate that shopping is holding up well, and with two full weeks left retailers can take heart that they won't have to sacrifice margin so much this year to induce shoppers to spend.

"SPSL is holding firm to its forecast that retail traffic for December as a whole will be just marginally down on 2003, by 0.3%


Established in 1989, SPSL is the largest European provider of proprietary tools for high accuracy customer traffic and behavioural analysis deployed by retailers. The company monitors more than 375 million visits to over 1,750 retail premises per annum in the UK alone.

Its customers include many of the retail industry's most successful companies across all retail sectors except grocery, convenience and minor retail service sectors. SPSL is trusted by retailers to provide mission-critical Key Performance Indicators to measure customer volume, sales opportunities, conversion rates, staff stretch, promotional activity and in-store lay-outs.

Its data features regularly in serious trade and consumer media and it exclusively provides the UK Retail Traffic Weather Map as seen in Retail Week and on the Retail Bulletin website. Director of SPSL, retail psychologist Dr. Tim Denison is a frequent and popular commentator on issues relating to shopping for national and regional broadcast, print and online media.

Using SPSL systems, retailers are able to reliably measure customer traffic flow on an ongoing hour-by-hour basis as well as determine in-store 'weather', assess the impact of marketing initiatives, and tailor staff levels according to customer demand rather than service supply.

The company owes its unrivalled reputation and success on the accuracy, dependability and specialist nature of both its data and its support services. It runs its UK and European operations from its head office in Milton Keynes, England and invests heavily in developing advanced behavioural analysis and tracking tools to create ever more beneficial trading results for its customers and ever more enriched shopping experiences for theirs.


The RTI from SPSL is regarded as the national benchmark of retail shopper traffic flow. It is constructed using a nationally representative sample of over 375 million visits to over 1,750 retail premises per annum across the UK, excluding the grocery, convenience and minor retail service sectors.

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