Positive start to the year for UK shopper numbers

footfall

UK retail footfall returned to growth in January after a steep decline the month before, according to new figures out today.

Shopper numbers rose 1.2% on a year ago, significantly above the 2.2% decline seen in December, and its best performance since January 2014, a report by the British Retail Consortium shows.

Retail parks faired the best, with in-store visitor numbers rising 5.2% year-on-year. This is well ahead of December’s 2.1% rise and above the 3-month average rate of 3.0%.

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Meanwhile, high streets reported their first rise in footfall since July 2013, rising 0.2%, ahead of December’s 4% decline.

Footfall growth in shopping centres was broadly flat in January, it best performance since January 2014.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 8.7% in January 2016, down from the 9.1% rate reported in October 2015. This is the lowest reported rate since we began reporting the data in July 2011.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the results were encouraging.

“The improvement in shopper footfall witnessed in January provided a timely and welcome fillip to retailers at the start of the year, with retail parks once again recording a stellar performance,” she explained.

“The further reduction in the shop vacancy rate is encouraging, more so against a backdrop in which online retailing is becoming increasingly popular.”

But she warned: “However, the fact remains that one in every eleven retail premises in our town centres lies empty.

“The current business rates system, in which rates bills only ever seem to rise, is wholly inadequate to the task ahead and so it is imperative that the Chancellor capitalises on the conclusion of the review next month to introduce a system which flexes with economic conditions and leads to a substantially lower tax burden.”

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