UK shopper footfall fell 1.2% in August against the year-ago period – below the three-month and 12-month rolling averages of -0.4% and -0.3% respectively, according to the latest statistics from the British Retail Consoium (BRC) and Springboard.
Covering the four weeks from July 30 to August 26, the BRC- Springboard’s footfall monitor reported that footfall declined by 2.6% on the high street and by 0.8% in shopping centres. In contrast, retail parks continued their recent trend of positive growth, with footfall up 1.6%.
Three regions – the East of England, the south-east and Wales – saw footfall growth. The fastest was in the East, which has now enjoyed nine months of consecutive footfall growth. The steepest decline was in Greater London (-2%) and Northern Ireland (-2.3%).
BRC chef executive Helen Dickinson OBE commented: “Footfall sagged in August at a more pronounced rate than that witnessed over the past quarter as a whole. Retail parks once again bucked the trend, with shoppers attracted by the convenience of a one-stop shop for purchases, services and leisure activities.
“Encouraging shoppers back to more of our town centres is crucial to reduce the high number of vacant premises and the increasing gap between the vibrant in-demand areas and those at the much more economically fragile end of the spectrum.
“From a retailer point, the sheer cost of doing business on our high streets has direct implications for the affordability of retailers’ investments in new or refurbished stores.
“A far more concerted and urgent effort is required from policymakers to stem and ultimately reduce the cost of doing business, particularly in our more economically-fragile communities. Not applying the planned inflationary increase to business rates next April would be a place to start.”
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle commented: “High street footfall tumbled to -2.6% in August. The sheer number of high streets across the UK – which is around twice as many shopping centres and retail parks combined – means that high streets have a heavy influence on the overall UK result.”
She suggested that at least some of the reason for more subdued footfall was a rise in online activity. Online sales rose by 11%, which is the greatest rise this year, with the increase in transactions via mobile devices of 27.6% higher than in any month since October last year.
“In part the rise in online activity will have been a result of much cooler, rainy weather this August than in 2016, which undoubtedly discouraged some shopping trips,” Diane said. “However, it’s also a function of increasing inflationary pressures driving consumers online in a search for lower prices – which is likely to only become more significant as inflation continues to increase its bite on household budgets.”