Retail footfall in April was 0.1% lower than a year ago, and down on the 1.8% rise in March, according the latest statistics from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard.
High streets reported the largest decline, falling 1.4% – substantially down from the 2.6% rise in March – while shopping centres experienced a 0.9% decline in footfall. Footfall in out-of-town locations fared best with a 4% increase year-on-year.
The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.6% in April 2014, a decrease from January’s rate of 11%.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Hopefully the flat footfall growth witnessed in April will prove short-lived, coming as it does after a favourable expansion the month before.
“As we saw with our retail sales data released last week, purchases of big ticket items such as furniture, gardening, DIY and materials for revamping the home performed well, off the back of a pick-up in the housing market. Out-of-town retail locations have directly benefited as a result, whilst footfall on our high streets has dipped, reflecting weaker sales of clothing, footwear and beauty products.
“The decline in the vacancy rate is heartening; however every tenth shop still remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for an overhaul of the business rates system, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in property, create more jobs and help revive high streets.”