Retail footfall in August was 1.1% down on a year ago, and below the three-month average of a 0.8% decline, according to the latest report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard.
Out-of-town reported the only rise – 2.9% higher than a year ago – while footfall in shopping centres slipped 1.1% and footfall on the high street dropped 2.8%. All regions and countries, with the exception of the south-east (1.2%) East Midlands (0.5%), Northern Ireland (4.2%) and Scotland (1.8%), reported declining footfall.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Footfall might have been down slightly in August but retail sales performed well. Taking account of the impact of online shopping, we see that customers are spending more per trip than in recent months. It seems that customers are hitting the High Streets with purpose – knowing what they want to buy ahead of time, supported by online research – and doing more shopping in a single trip.
“Out-of-town performed better than High Streets. The strong sales performance of furniture retailers, who for reasons of space tend to be located on retail parks, seems to have given a boost to the footfall figures in out-of-town locations. This is no doubt driven by increasing optimism in the housing market and customers having more confidence to spend on increasingly bigger-ticket items.”
She continued: All this is yet more evidence that the way we shop is fundamentally changing, as retailers continue to adapt to changes in shopping habits. The lines between bricks and mortar stores and digital interactions are less defined and more seamless as retailers continue to innovate in order to meet and exceed the needs of their customers. We will continue to see the whole customer experience becoming more and more important in the use of physical space.”
Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle added: “The drop in footfall in August in high streets and shopping centres – which has occurred in all but one month this year – underlines further that it is these locations that are vulnerable to the adverse effect of change that is occurring across our retail landscape as a consequence of online shopping.
“The good news is that while footfall dropped, sales rose in August, primarily driven by clothing and footwear – traditionally town centre focused purchases – indicating that at least in part the drop in footfall will have been offset by increased dwell time and transaction values. At the same time, however, out-of-town footfall has increased for the eighth consecutive month, with an average rise in 2014 of 3.2% compared with a drop of 1.5% in high streets and 0.7% in shopping centres.”
She asserted that in part the success of out-of-town locations is due to the increased demand for household items driven by the rise in house prices. “However,” she commented, “they are also delivering an increasingly attractive wider leisure-based offer, with plentiful free car parking, in a safe environment. Whilst high streets and shopping centres are working hard to both retain and to win back customers, if they are to prosper over the critical Christmas trading period in the face of strong out-of-town competition, it requires the speedy alleviation of obvious barriers to shoppers such as high parking costs.”