High street footfall lowest in two years

Slowing economic growth has had a negative impact on footfall as it continued to fall in April.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Retail Footfall Monitor found that footfall fell 2.4 per cent in April compared with the same period last year.

Retail has seen the biggest decline in footfall since February 2014 at 4.7 per cent. Shopping centre footfall also decreased by 0.7 per cent year on year. However, retail parks saw an increase in footfall at 1.1 per cent compared with the previous year.

The national town vacancy rate increased from 8.7 per cent in January 2016 to 9.6 per cent in April. This is the first time the vacancy rate has risen since the start of 2015, but remains broadly in line with the average over the last year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Today’s figures will make sobering reading for retailers battling to attract customers into their shops. In all but retail parks, footfall has fallen again. The high street has seen the deepest decline in footfall since February 2014 at 4.7 per cent, putting April well below the three-month average. This also coincides with the first rise in town centre shop vacancies for 15 months.

“Some comfort may be taken in the fact that the overall rate of footfall decline has slowed to 2.4 per cent from last month’s 2.7 per cent.

“Ultimately these are clear examples of the challenges that UK retailers face at the moment. Taken together today’s figures tangibly demonstrate the impact of the structural change happening in our industry. It’s clear that retailers, local authorities and the Government need to redouble their combined efforts to mitigate the impact of this change on our high streets and town centres.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: “April’s footfall figures certainly echo the high street decline seen over recent months, which can be attributable to the poor weather for this time of year, but with digital sales and retail parks also slowing down it signifies something more at play. The rise in unemployment and economic uncertainty in this pre EU referendum period has undoubtedly adversely impacted consumer activity. We know that cuts in retail spending are the first line of defence against threats to household budgets when consumer confidence is knocked.

“Footfall during standard daytime trading hours – driven by retail spending – is far greater than in other parts of the day. This dropped by a greater degree than in other parts of the day, but there was no offsetting effect of uplifts during the social period of 5pm to 8pm, or during nighttime hours as there have been in previous months. This highlights the need for retail destinations to broaden their offer to embrace new and exciting retail formats that drive activity, but also to have an offer that captures the increasing consumer demand for hospitality and food and beverage.”