Public sector fears hit retailing

Areas of the UK with large numbers of public sector workers are most likely to be affected by declining retail footfall and failed shops.

Public sector fears hit retailing

So suggests the latest British Retail Consortium/Springboard-ATCM Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, which showed that footfall in UK stores fell between May and July as high inflation, poor wage growth and concerns about job security took their toll.

In addition, in May over 11% of town centre stores were vacant.

Footfall over the three months was 1% down on the same period a year earlier, with falling shopper numbers driven by a 1.9% decline in people visiting out-of-town complexes.

Over the last 12 months, though, high streets have seen the highest drop, of 2.6%. Worst-hit locations were Wales (-9.2%), the West Midlands (-6.6%) and the east of England (-6.2%) which recorded the sharpest decreases in footfall. Greater London (1.6%), the south west (0.4%) and Scotland (0.2%) were the only locations that saw shopper numbers rise.

Meanwhile, the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.2% in May, with Northern Ireland (17.1%), Wales (13.4%) and the north and Yorkshire (13.1%) recording the highest figures.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: “In July, all types of shopping locations saw reduced footfall year-on-year and that was before the effect of this month’s disturbances in England.

“Fewer people are shopping because households are facing high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about future job prospects.”

He said that the footfall and vacancy figures showed “stark differences in retail health between some of the UK’s nations and regions. Generally, the parts of the UK where the public sector is a bigger proportion of the economy are the ones where customer spending is most likely to be hit by worries about job prospects and cuts, meaning people are shopping less and more retail businesses are failing. By both measures, Northern Ireland and Wales are suffering particularly badly.”

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