Footfall strengthened slightly in October to -0.4% compared with the same month last year, following a 0.9% year-on-year decline in September, reports British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Springboard.
However, the picture is mixed across the country – while most areas saw a decline in shopper numbers, the North and Yorkshire region showed a 0.5% year-on-year increase.
Covering the four weeks from October 2 to October 29, the BRC- Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor revealed that high street footfall dropped for the second consecutive month – though the 0.4% fall was marginally better than the 0.5% fall in September. This is behind the three-month average, which was broadly flat.
Footfall in retail park locations grew 1.1% after September’s minor fall of 0.01%. This was higher than the three-month average of 0.5%.
Footfall in shopping centres fell for the ninth consecutive month in October, though the drop of -1.8% was up on the 2.5% decrease in the previous month. This is above the three-month average of -2.1%.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson commented: “These figures underline some of the challenges facing bricks and mortar retailers. “Interestingly, October’s BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor showed a 1.7% increase in like-for-like sales growth across the country, which perhaps suggests that shoppers may still be prepared to shell out for a bargain, but they are increasingly doing so from their laptops or mobile devices.
“Our quarterly vacancy rate data, which shows a decline in town centre shop vacancies to 9.5% from 10.1% in July, is further evidence of the volatility in the retail property market. Once again, the North and Yorkshire region – as well as Northern Ireland – are welcoming more stores in their high streets. But the vacancy rate in Scotland has spiked to 9.2% from 7.5% in July.
“We will watch this trend carefully, but there is some suggestion that landlords are welcoming retail tenants on shorter leases. While this could be good in the short term for retailers needing more flexible arrangements, it also bears witness to a lack of long-term stability in many areas.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director of Springboard, added: “The slight strengthening of footfall in October to -0.4% from -0.9% in September demonstrates that any worries about economic uncertainty are not yet adversely impacting footfall.
“Much has been made of the rise in clothing sales in October. However, the ongoing drop in daytime footfall demonstrates challenges in attracting shoppers to bricks and mortar stores. And whilst a boost in luxury sales due to the weak pound has been widely reported, this is not reflected in increased footfall as it is driven by higher value purchases.
“The vacancy rate always lags behind trends in footfall and sales due to the stickiness of the property market. So the relatively stable footfall trend over the summer will have undoubtedly contributed to the improvement in the vacancy rate. The vacancy rate also improved at the same time last year and so, to some degree, this is driven by an increase in short-term lets in the run up to Christmas.”