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Footfall up in August

Footfall in August was up 0.4% on the same month last year and up 3.9% on July according to the Experian National Retail Footfall Index.

The footfall rise reverses three months of falling shopper numbers.

In addition website traffic to online retailers was up 3.5% year-on-year, according to Hitwise, which measures visits to sites.

Experian said that the rise in shopper numbers was not limited to town centres. Out of town retail parks, which have been hit by factors such as rising petrol prices in recent months, saw footfall rise 0.2% against last year. Shopper numbers to retail parks in August were also up 4.4% on July.

However, the picture was more mixed by region. The biggest footfall rise recorded was in the North West, which saw a 4.1% hike in shopper numbers. The North East also recorded a rise of 2%. Six of the 10 territories actually recorded declining shopper numbers with the East suffering the worst fall of 5.3% (see table for a full breakdown of shopper numbers by region).

Experian senior economist Matthew Sherwood said: "The footfall data provides a surprising glimmer of hope in an otherwise dismal picture for retailers. If oil price falls are joined by declining food prices that would help to ease the burden of the credit crunch on retailers' fortunes. But retailers are still reporting that this summer had been dismal and it is hard to see how they are going to escape even further troubles in the months ahead, especially as the economy flirts with recession."

Sherwood added: "Despite the rise in footfall we still forecast that sales volumes will contract between July and September, the first such fall since early 2006. The next 12 months are shaping up to be the slowest period for retailers since the early 1990s."

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