Spring footfall surge loses momentum in May

UK footfall fell by 1% year-on-year in May, representing the first decline since February, according to the monthly monitor from the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Springboard.

Covering the four weeks from April 30 to May 27, the report said High Street footfall slipped by 2% – its steepest decline since last June. Footfall to retail park destinations grew by 1.5% while shopping centre footfall dropped by 1.3%.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE commented: “After the Easter boost in shopper numbers, footfall fell in May, which was mirrored in the month’s sales performance.

“But it wasn’t just shops that suffered. Poor weather at the beginning of the month kept people indoors and made it a poor month for footfall in general, with fewer people out and about.

“The biggest movement was noticeable in the number of visitors to the high street which, after several months of growth, saw its steepest decline since last June.

“In an uncertain economic climate, retailers will be looking to the next Government to deliver on their commitment to fundamentally reform of business rates, to implement a more sustainable system that allows for growth and investment.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “May was clearly a month of moderation for UK shoppers, with a 1% drop in footfall across all destinations, and a 2% drop in the high street.

“The slowing of growth in footfall post-5pm to 1.1% in May from 3.5% in May 2016 reflects this moderation, suggesting fewer shoppers opted to stay longer and eat out after their shopping trips. This will be a concern for retail locations that have focused on expanding their food offer to grow shopper dwell time.

“The drop in footfall was mirrored by a drop of 3.7% in UK sales as measured by Springboard’s sales index, which tracks sales in bricks-and-mortar stores. These are clear signals that consumers have started to display greater spending restraint.”

She continued: “While May’s footfall decline didn’t show a dramatic drop overall, the result for high streets was the worst result since June 2016, when high street footfall declined by 3.7% in the wake of the EU Referendum.

“However, April’s results were boosted by the shift in Easter from March in 2016 to April this year. So it’s unsurprising that there was a downward shift in footfall – particularly as UK consumers could have felt additionally cautious in the lead-up to the general election [on June 8].”

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