April footfall slows amidst cooling economy

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Retail footfall in April was 2.4 per cent down on last year, which is slightly ahead of the 2.7 per cent fall in March, reports the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

This further decline is consistent with the flat sales growth demonstrated in the recent BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, along with the slowing economic growth expected by major forecasters.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Today’s figures will make sobering reading for retailers battling to attract customers into their shops. In all but retail parks, footfall has fallen again. The high street has seen the deepest decline in footfall since February 2014 at 4.7 per cent, putting April well below the three-month average. This also coincides with the first rise in town centre shop vacancies for fifteen months.

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“Some comfort may be taken in the fact that the overall rate of footfall decline has slowed to -2.4 per cent from last month’s -2.7 per cent. Ultimately these are clear examples of the challenges that UK retailers face at the moment. Taken together today’s figures tangibly demonstrate the impact of the structural change happening in our industry. It’s clear that retailers, local authorities and the Government need to redouble their combined efforts to mitigate the impact of this change on our high streets and town centres.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director of Springboard, said: “April’s footfall figures certainly echo the high street decline seen over recent months, which can be attributable to the poor weather for this time of year, but with digital sales and retail parks also slowing down it signifies something more at play. The rise in unemployment and economic uncertainty in this pre EU referendum period has undoubtedly adversely impacted consumer activity. We know that cuts in retail spending are the first line of defence against threats to household budgets when consumer confidence is knocked.

“Footfall during standard daytime trading hours – driven by retail spending – is far greater than in other parts of the day.  This dropped by a greater degree than in other parts of the day, but there was no offsetting effect of uplifts during the social period of 5pm to 8pm, or during night time hours as there have been in previous months.  This highlights the need for retail destinations to broaden their offer to embrace new and exciting retail formats that drive activity, but also to have an offer that captures the increasing consumer demand for hospitality and food and beverage.”

 The BRC also reported an increase in the national town centre vacancy rate, which has risen to 9.6 per cent in April 2016, up from 8.7 per cent in January 2016. This is the first time the vacancy rate has risen since the start of 2015 but remains broadly in line with the average over the last year.

 

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