Footfall at both shopping centres and the high street was down last month while retail parks just about avoided a decline in shoppers.
Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that average footfall in July in retail areas fell by just under 1% compared to the same period last year, representing the worst decline for July since 2012.
High street and shopping centre footfall dropped by around 3% for the month of July.
But footfall at retail parks increased by just over 1%, reversing a 0.5% decline in July 2018.
The marginal decline and growth was overshadowed by the survey’s finding that one in ten shops on the high street are now empty, the highest vacancy rate in four years.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of BRC, said that retailers faced a “challenging environment” in July.
She says: “Sluggish sales growth and declining footfall also contributed to the rise in town centre vacancies, which rose to their highest level since January 2015.
£High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty store fronts. If the Government wishes to avoid seeing more empty shops in our town centres then they must act to relieve some of the pressure bearing down on the high street.
“Currently, retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of all business costs and 25% of all business taxes. The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable. We need an immediate freeze in rates, as well as fixing the Transitional Relief, which leads to cornershops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director for Springboard, which carried out the survey alongside BRC, says: “July was a much more challenging month for high streets and shopping centres than for out of town destinations. The ongoing challenges faced by bricks and mortar destinations is reflected in the rising vacancy rate, which has increased in every quarter since January 2018 and now sits at 10.3%.
“Consumer demand is ever more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out of town destinations where footfall rose by 1.2% in July reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap. They not only offer consumers accessible shopping environments with free parking and easy click and collect opportunities for online purchases, but many also combine this with an enhanced experience.”
“The attraction of retail parks was demonstrated clearly in the last week of the month when temperatures reached record levels,” she continues, adding: “With temperatures peaking at nearly 40 degrees on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week, footfall in high streets and shopping centres declined by an average of -7% on those two days, but only by -0.5% in retail parks.”