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Footfall slips but vacancies improve

Inflation-pinched consumers remain cash conscious as High Streets suffer in latest figures


FOOTFALL slipped by 1.6 per cent in January as inflation-pinched consumers remained cash conscious, and it was High Streets that suffered the most.

The British Retail Consortium said yesterday, Monday, February 12, that footfall had slipped 1.6 per cent during the month compared to the same period a year ago, which represents a deeper fall than the 1.3 per cent slide recorded in January 2017.
The figure was slightly better than the three-month average of a 1.8 per cent decrease, but below the 12-month average of a 0.7 per cent decline.
However, there was good news on the national town centre vacancy rate which stood at 8.9 per cent in January 2018, down from 9.3 per cent in October 2017.
This was due largely to reduced vacancy rates for Greater London, at 5.6 per cent down from 7.1 per cent; Northern Ireland at 14.3 per cent down from 15.2 per cent, and Scotland at 9.2 per cent down from 10.5 per cent.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “January painted a picture of divided fortunes with a slight improvement in town vacancy rates but decline in shopper footfall. The latter fell in line with the underlying trend of reduced customer activity in shopping destinations, compounded by the squeeze on discretionary spending.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director for analytics firms Springboard who compile the data with the BRC, added: “A drop in footfall of 1.6 per cent is an improvement on December's 3.5 per cent decline, but it is the worst result for January since 2013.
“So it’s clear that the challenges facing bricks and mortar retailing are continuing to build – the 1.9 per cent decline in High Street footfall is more than double the 0.8 drop in January 2017, and shopping centre footfall continues to languish at 3.1 per cent down following a drop of three per cent a year ago.
“In contrast, activity in retail parks continues to grow, with a shift in footfall from a 0.4 per cent drop in January 2017 to a 0.9 per cent this January; despite furniture and household appliance sales in January being the worst of all 13 categories.
“Retail parks clearly now fulfil a wider role for shoppers; yes, they are convenient and functional shopping locations, but are buoyed by the continuing growth in online spending. Not only are they efficient click and collect points, but their attraction is enhanced by a wider offer, embracing hospitality.
“Herein lies the lesson for stores in urban locations of High Streets and shopping centres – their longevity is contingent upon their ability to embrace all steps of consumers' path to purchase, which implicitly necessitates a first class click and collect experience.
“While footfall dropped, the vacancy rate strengthened over the quarter, but caution is needed in reading too much into this as it reflects short-term occupier demand in the lead up to Christmas and is a trend that replicates previous years.”

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