The UK non-food retail market hit its summer peak in the last week of July, making it the second busiest shopping week of the year, as reflected in the latest footfall figures from Ipsos Retail Performance.
Ipsos compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK. In July the RTI increased by 6.1% on June and fell 3.2% year-on-year on July 2013, two percentage points down on the month's forecast.
Although a busy month, the figures represent a downturn on the equivalent comparators in June, when weekly footfall levels were up 7.6% on May and down 2.0% year-on-year. However, results from July maintained the underlying trend for 2014, with the rolling year-on-year 12-month average continuing to narrow.
"These figures might indicate a moderation in the retail recovery, which is only to be expected, commented Dr Tim Denison, director at Ipsos.
"2014 has witnessed a remarkably buoyant first six month. We have seen GDP in its sixth successive quarter of growth, output now 0.2% above its pre-recession peak, employment numbers continuing to swell and consumer confidence remaining high.
"The slight drop in figures for this month may simply reflect the public taking a breather and re-evaluating their financial wellbeing and spend. Alternatively, it could simply be due to a tough comparator month last year, when Britain was enjoying a summer of sport success and a resurgence of wellbeing."
A poor showing in footfall for the two middle weeks of July was largely responsible for dragging the monthly figure down.
Mr Denison continued: "We will need to wait another month or two to know whether the UK retail market is moving into a cooling off period. The speculation that interest rate rises could be brought forward to the end of this year may soften consumer confidence and dampen predictions for the second half of the year.
"Our clients nevertheless remain bullish for the rest of the year, expecting demand at Christmas to be stronger this year."