September was not a great month for retailers, according to a report published today by foot-traffic analytics company Euclid. The number of total shoppers walking by who entered a store fell to 14.4 percent in September, 2 percent less than in August. "Stores are less able to convert customers outside," says Euclid Head of Insights Scott Frymoyer. Low consumer confidence meant fewer low-cost impulse purchases, even as sales of big-ticket items remained strong, according to the report.
There was also an increase in the number of shoppers who entered and left a store quickly. A total of 15.6 percent of shoppers left within five minutes. The figure was 2 percent higher than the same time last year. Still, compared to online shopping, where the majority of viewers often leave a site after viewing one page, numbers were high. "The commitment of a shopper to visit a brick and mortar store should be exciting for retailers," Frymoyer points out, since [the stores] bring in people who are more likely to stay once they enter, and in general spend more time browsing through the merchandise.
In September, even among those who stayed to browse, the amount of time spent in-store dropped. From entry to exit, shoppers spent an average of 22 minutes, 5 seconds, which is down 5 percent from the same time last year and 5.7 percent from August.
Stores are still doing a good job of engaging loyal customers, according to Euclid. A quarter of all visits were from repeat customers, a figure retailers use to gauge the effectiveness of their marketing programs and messaging to current customers. Repeat customers increased 1.4 percent from August.
Euclid gathers its data by collecting all the "pings" smartphones send out as they search for WiFi signals. It then anonymizes the data and uses it to figure out the flow of shoppers outside and within a retail space. It can track repeat customers, as well as when a customer visits multiple locations of a chain.
Smartphone adoption varies by region. Frymoyer put the number around three or four out of five people in the Bay Area, on the high end, and around 40 percent nationwide, with the numbers continuing to rise.
Euclid's data suggests a relatively weak back-to-school market, but Frymoyer wouldn't use this information to extrapolate any information about the holiday season. If the government shutdown resolves soon, "there could be a lot of pent-up sales, which would make for a great November and December. If it drags on, things are not looking good," he forecasts.