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Sunshine helps footfall

But overall figures see ‘cautious consumers’ blamed for weakest February in five years

FOOTFALL last month saw the weakest February in five years with a significant two per cent decline overall compared to 12 months ago despite the good weather.

The latest Footfall & Vacancies report from retail insights agency Springboard and the British Retail Consortium shows worst hit were Shopping Centres where the drop was 3.4 per cent, with High Streets down 1.9 per cent – although the sunshine in the last week of February provided a welcome boost, and overall daytime shopping saw a more modest decline compared to post-5pm.
Retail Parks fell by 0.8 per cent, a sharp decline compared with the 1.4 per cent growth in February 2018, however across this location in the East Midlands and Wales, there was notable growth of three per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The two per cent drop in footfall in February – a significant worsening from the 0.5 per cent decrease in February 2018 – occurred despite the fact that February this year was the hottest on record.
“However, the record temperatures only occurred in the final week of the month when footfall rose by 2.5 per cent compared with drops in each of the preceding three weeks, averaging 3.6 per cent down.
“Indeed, the balmy conditions certainly helped High Streets where footfall rose by 4.5 per cent in the last week of the month compared with an average drop of 4.1 per cent in the preceding three weeks.
“Footfall declined in all but one geography and in all but two areas the drop was greater than two per cent, with a fall of just 1.4 per cent in Greater London. The result for London will in part have been due to Chinese New Year occurring in February this year, but it’s actually not an unusual outcome as footfall in Greater London is generally the last to decline and the first to recover due to the diversity of its economy and sheer volume of activity.
“What would have seemed highly unlikely this time last year, is that there was a more modest decline in footfall during day time hours of 1.5 per cent compared with 3.3 per cent down post 5pm.
“To some degree this will have been a consequence of the cost of evening dining which typically is higher than lunch, but the warm weather during what was half term week in many areas will have also increased the appeal of daytime trips for which evening trips will have been sacrificed.”
BRC CEO Helen Dickinson added: “Consumers have been cautious in their spending, leading to the biggest drop in February footfall for five years. These figures echo the month’s poor retail sales figures, which saw weak growth, particularly in bricks-and-mortar stores.
“While real incomes have been rising over the last year, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit appears to be driving a needs-not-wants approach top shopping.
“Things could get a lot worse unless the Government are able to avoid a calamitous no-deal Brexit. Such a scenario would likely result in higher costs, higher prices and less choice for consumers – all of which would further harm struggling retailers.
“The Government must act to protect both consumers and retailers by ensuring there is no chance of a no-deal Brexit.”

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