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UK footfall takes step in right direction

But vacancy rate rises as BRC call for Government action on rates to halt decline


FOOTFALL in the UK took a step in the right direction in July with the rate of decline for the month shallower at 1.9 per cent than that seen in June.

However, it was the fourth consecutive month of declining footfall across the country with Greater London having the shallowest dip at 0.3 per cent, while Northern Ireland was worst at five per cent down.
And these latest figures from retail analysts Springboard and the British Retail Consortium also show the national town centre vacancy rate was 10.3 per cent, a slight increase on the previous quarter’s 10.2 per cent, and the worst level since January 2015.
High Street footfall declined by 2.7 per cent against the 0.3 per cent increase in July 2018 and giving a three-month average decline of four per cent.
Shopping centre footfall declined by 3.1 per cent, better than the previous year’s 3.4 per cent decline, making a three-month average drop of three per cent.
There was good news for retail parks with a three month average growth of 0.2 per cent thanks to a 1.2 per cent increase in July, up from the 0.5 per cent decrease a year ago.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director, said: “Some of the drop in High Street footfall was a consequence of a strong comparable last year when we had a continuous period of hot sunny weather, but for shopping centres the weather clearly has less impact on footfall than the challenges created by the ongoing structural change in retailing.
“Indeed, the ongoing challenges faced by bricks and mortar destinations is reflected in the rising vacancy rate, which has increased in every quarter since January 2018 and now sits at 10.3 per cent.
“Consumer demand is ever more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out of town destinations reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap.
“They not only offer consumers accessible shopping environments with free parking and easy click and collect opportunities for online purchases, but many also combine this with an enhanced experience that includes coffee shops and casual dining restaurants, and some also have leisure facilities.”
BRC CEO Helen Dickinson OBE added: “Sluggish sales growth and declining footfall also contributed to the rise in town centre vacancies, which rose to their highest level since January 2015.
“High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty store fronts.
“If the Government wishes to avoid seeing more empty shops in our town centres then they must act to relieve some of the pressure bearing down on the high street. Currently, retail accounts for five per cent of the economy, yet pays 10 per cent of all business costs and 25 per cent of all business taxes.
“The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable. We need an immediate freeze in rates, as well as fixing the Transitional Relief, which leads to cornershops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London.”

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