Footfall in July was 0.6% lower than a year ago, up on the 0.7% fall in June, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard.
High streets reported the largest decline, falling 1.7%, while shopping centres experienced a 0.5% drop. Footfall in out-of-town locations fared best, with a 1.7% increase year-on-year. Scotland reported the greatest rise in regional footfall: up 4.4% year-on-year.
The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.1%. BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “These results are a mixed bag, with footfall easing downwards in July but the shop vacancy rate recording its best performance since our records began in July 2011.
“Footfall dipped compared to the same period last year, albeit less pronounced than in June. Out-of-town destinations performed well, off the back of strong sales of furniture, home accessories and outdoor and garden items, while high streets and shopping malls dipped, reflecting weaker sales of goods such as beauty products.
“The reduction in the shop vacancy rate for the third successive quarter is heartening. However, it’s still the case that every tenth shop remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for a fundamental overhaul of commercial property taxes, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new or existing retail premises and thus help rejuvenate our high streets.”
Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle added: “The picture is less rosy for high streets than for shopping centres or retail parks. Whilst footfall continues to decline, the improvement in vacancy rates – which has occurred for the third quarter in a row – indicates a growing flexibility and responsiveness of landlords in the face of tough trading conditions, which has increasingly included the introduction of ‘pop up’ shops and temporary lets. And the good news underpinning this is that the drop in vacancies over each of the last three quarters is widespread, occurring in at least six UK regions.
“However, the key issue for town centres in the longer term is the extent to which any temporary let is converted into long term occupation beyond the summer and into the key Christmas trading period.”