Retail footfall stumbles in August

Retail footfall declined by 1.3% in August, compared to the same point last year when it declined by 1.6%, according to the latest figures from British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard.

Covering the four weeks from July 28 to August 24, the data reveals that High Street footfall dropped by 1.9%, following from a decrease of 2.0% in August last year. The three-month average decline is 3.1%.

Shopping centre footfall slumped by 2.2%, following August 2018’s decline of 2.4%. The three-month average decline was 2.6%.

But retail park footfall rose by 1.0%, following from August 2018 when footfall increased by 0.3%. The three-month average growth is 0.7%.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE commented: “Retail footfall continued its downwards trajectory last month, with high streets and shopping centres most affected. The long-term trend, which has seen footfall decline by an average of 1.7% over the last 12 months, reflects the fact that increasingly cautious consumers are holding back on discretionary spending and not heading out to the shops. Only retail parks, with their combination of activities and shopping, were able to buck the trend.

“There is little sign that the stresses on retail will abate any time soon. Stuck between weak demand thanks to Brexit uncertainty, and rising costs resulting from business rates and other public policy costs, many retailers are clearly struggling. The Government should take the opportunity to reduce the heavy cost burden holding back retail investment.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “In the face of weak consumer confidence and declining sales, a drop in footfall of 1.3% in August wasn’t unexpected. We must remember that declining footfall is a long term trend, with annual increases being the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, footfall has declined in every year since Springboard started publishing its national data in January 2009.

“On a positive note, August had the strongest footfall over the summer months, and it was also an improvement on last year when footfall declined by 1.6%. This month’s result was bolstered by the final week of the month, when the hottest August bank holiday on record improved footfall from 1.4% to 0.6%.

“The final week of the month also highlighted the difference in consumer demand for each of the destination types. Despite back-to-school trading, footfall in shopping centres dropped by 2.4% in the final week compared with an average of 2% over the previous three weeks. In high streets, footfall strengthened noticeably in the final week to just 0.1%, moving from a decline of more than 2% in each of the first three weeks, as consumers looked to make the most of the good weather.

“In contrast, footfall in retail parks rose in each of the first three weeks, averaging 1%, levelling off in the last week but remaining in positive territory. This demonstrates their ongoing attractiveness to shoppers as they continue to bridge the ‘convenience-experience’ gap, necessary in today’s retail environment.”

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