Autumn rain keeps shoppers at bay in October

UK retail footfall declined by 3.2% year-on-year in October – which was steeper than September and both the 3-month and 12-month average, according to the latest figures from British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard.

Covering the four weeks from September 29 to October 26, the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Report said that on the High Street, footfall saw a far steeper rate of decline than September, at 4.9%. This was steeper than the three-month average decline of 2.8%.

Retail park footfall declined for the first time in 5 months, with -0.5%. This was below the 3-month average of 0.2%.

Shopping centre footfall declined by 2.4% in October, which was a slight improvement on the 3-month average of 2.6%.

The UK vacancy rate improved to 10.0% in October, from 10.3% in July.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE commented: “High Streets were hit hardest in October, with the wet weather putting off many consumers from venturing out to the shops. Weak consumer demand and Brexit uncertainty have both impacted sales in recent months, and this could be further affected by the imminent election campaigning.

“Nonetheless, retailers will be hoping for footfall to pick up as they enter the all-important Golden Quarter. There is some cause for optimism, with the vacancy rate decreasing slightly, buoyed by strong results in London which saw vacancies fall by almost a third.

“The election offers an opportunity for a future Government to outline how it would support an industry that pays over £17 billion in tax every year and employs over three million people. With retail accounting for 5% of the economy yet paying 10% of all business taxes and 25% of business rates, it’s clear there is room for improvement. The next government should follow the Treasury Select Committee’s advice and scrap downwards transition, which takes money from retailers and uses it to subsidise other industries.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “The drop in footfall of -3.2% was the worst result for October in seven years. Whilst it can’t be regarded as a purely pre-Brexit breakdown as the weather also played a part, the prevailing political uncertainty must be having a considerable impact on activity, given the low level of consumer confidence.

“When confidence is low it doesn’t take much to deter shoppers, and the torrential rain in the last week of the month hit footfall particularly hard, resulting in a drop over those seven days of -6.2%.

“All three destination types – high streets, shopping centres and retail parks – were impacted by a much greater drop in the last week of the month than in the previous three. But by far the worst result came from high streets, where footfall declined by -7.4% – which is not unexpected given their exposure to the elements. The significant impact on high streets was felt across the board geographically, with footfall declining in all but one area, and in four areas (Greater London, the south-east, North & Yorkshire and Wales) the drop was in excess of -5%.

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