BRC-Springboard: September footfall declines but shoppers still spending

Total retail footfall was fractionally down last month, with almost one per cent fewer people heading out to shopping locations across the UK, according to the latest statistics from BRC (British Retail Consortium)-Springboard.

Its footfall and vacancies monitor, covering the five weeks from 28 August 28 to October 1, reveals that footfall in September was 0.9% down on a year ago – a return to the decline in footfall seen before the 0.1% rise in August. On a three-month basis, footfall declined 0.4%.

High street footfall fell after two months of growth, down 0.5% in September, after of the 1.1% rise in August. This is below the 3-month average of 0.2% and is the fifth month high street footfall has fallen this year.

Footfall in retail park locations was broadly flat in September, worse than the 0.4% rise in August. Footfall in shopping centres fell 2.5% in September, a further fall from the 1.9% drop in August. This is below the 3-month average of -2.1%.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “While in itself this isn’t the news that retailers would hope for, taken with other retail industry data published this month it tells a fascinating story.

“At the same time as both footfall and shop prices have fallen year-on-year, retail spending grew in September by 1.3%. This is a function of the changing face of retail and the hard work and innovation of British retail businesses that are responding brilliantly to technological advances and changing consumer habits.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director of Springboard, added: “The headline result for the UK shows a slight worsening of footfall in September from August, but does not reveal the underlying trend that shopping centres are losing shopper numbers at a faster rate than high streets.

“While the very warm and sunny weather will have drawn consumers to high streets in September, resulting in a greater drop in shopping centre footfall of 2.5%, this is not just a one-off result. Shopping centre footfall has dropped by 1.8% for the year to date compared with -1.4% in high streets and a rise of 1.2% in retail parks.

“The issue for shopping centres could be that many have lacked the investment required to maintain their appeal for shoppers, whose standards and expectations have risen.

“The other trend is the rate of increase in footfall in retail parks is diminishing, with a decline in three months of this year and a lower average increase for the year to date of 1.2% compared with 2.2% last year.

“Changes in their offer – including family friendly restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, and cinemas – heightened the attractiveness of these locations to shoppers and led to an uplift in footfall. Inevitably, this rate of increase slows.

“Moving forward into what should be the most lucrative trading period of the year, despite the challenges of a weaker pound and living wage costs, it is critical that staffing remains strong to deliver the level of customer service required to ensure retail destinations offer a quality customer experience.”

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