Spending up but footfall down

Footfall continues to decline but shoppers are still spending, according to new data.

The BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found that footfall fell by 0.9 per cent in September, compared to a year ago. This indicates a return to declining footfall after the 0.1 per cent rise in August.

On a three-month basis, footfall declined by 0.4 per cent.

After two months of growth, high-street footfall fell by half a per cent in September, after the 1.1 per cent rise in August. This is below the three-month average of 0.2 per cent and is the fifth month that high street footfall has fallen in 2016 so far.

Footfall in retail park locations was broadly flat in September, which was worse than the 0.4 per cent rise in August. In shopping centres, shopper numbers fell by 2.5 per cent, which was higher than the 1.9 per cent drop recorded in August. This was also worse than the three-month average of -2.1 per cent.

Helen Dickinson (pictured), BRC chief executive, said: “Total footfall was fractionally down this month, with almost one per cent fewer people heading out to shopping locations across the UK. While, in itself, this isn’t the news retailers would hope for, taken with other retail industry data published this month, it tells a fascinating story. At the same time as both footfall and shop prices have fallen year on year, retail spending grew in September by 1.3 per cent. This is a function of the changing face of retail and the hard work and innovation of British retail businesses who are responding brilliantly to technological advances and changing consumer habits.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The headline result for the UK shows a slight worsening of footfall in September from August, but does not reveal the underlying trend that shopping centres are losing shopper numbers at a faster rate than high streets. While the very warm and sunny weather will have drawn consumers to high streets in September, resulting in a greater drop in shopping centre footfall of 2.5 per cent, this is not just a one-off result as shopping-centre footfall has dropped by 1.8 per cent for the year to date compared with -1.4 per cent in high streets and a rise of 1.2 per cent in retail parks. The issue for shopping centres could be that many have lacked the investment required to maintain their appeal for shoppers whose standards and expectations have risen.

“The other trend is the rate of increase in footfall in retail parks is diminishing, with a decline in three months of this year and a lower average increase for the year to date of 1.2 per cent compared with 2.2 per cent last year. Changes in their offer, including family-friendly restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, and cinemas, heightened the attractiveness of these locations to shoppers and led to an uplift in footfall. Inevitably this rate of increase slows.

“Moving forward into what should be the most lucrative trading period of the year, despite the challenges of a weaker pound and living wage costs, it is critical that staffing remains strong to deliver the level of customer service required to ensure retail destinations offer a quality customer experience.”