Bad weather combined with low consumer confidence in the three months to April took a heavy toll on footfall in high streets, which saw the worst drop since November 2009.
According to the latest figures from the BRC/Springboard footfall monitor, overall shopper footfall levels during the period were 2.0% lower than a year ago. But high streets – the shopping areas most likely to suffer when it rains – sustained the biggest blow, seeing 6.4% fewer shoppers. Shopping centres were down 0.8% but out-of-town locations saw a rise of 1.2%.
The hardest-hit regions in the past three months were Scotland (-12.6%), the east (-8.9%) and Greater London (-8.2%). Wales was the only region to show increased footfall, up 0.6%.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Double-digit declines in shopper numbers in April in almost every part of the UK and stubbornly high shop vacancy rates confirm how tough conditions are for customers and retailers. Some of that is about seasonal factors – the comparison with last year when the weather was better, Easter was later and there was an extra bank holiday. But, essentially, consumers lack confidence, disposable incomes are still dropping and fewer people are shopping for anything that isn’t essential.
“While March was a better month, with the sun bringing some spring spending forward, cold, wet weather combined with a widespread lack of spare cash kept them at home in April. High streets are more vulnerable to the rain and took the biggest blow, suffering the worst drop in footfall since November 2009, which added to the difficulties that are keeping empty shops empty.”