March sees steepest footfall decline since 2010

Footfall in March decreased by six per cent, compared to a 1.3 per cent increase during the same month last year, and the steepest year-on-year fall since the end of 2010.

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures also showed no growth in footfall for any UK regions, with the most notable year-on-year declines seen in Greater London, down 7.5 per cent, followed by a 6.5 per cent drop in the South East, and 5.6 per cent in the East Midlands.

Growth fell in all shopping destinations, with the High Street down 8.6 per cent, retail parks down 1.8 per cent and shopping centres down 4.8 per cent.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson explained that while the prolonged period of bad weather has had an impact on shoppers visiting the High Street, a longer term trend of reduced footfall highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop.

“The retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this. Policy-makers must also play their part with a vision for a modern business taxation system which reflects this new environment.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with Springboard, whose marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said that increased Easter footfall in shopping centres and retail parks helped battle the bad weather, but this was more than offset by the impact of the heavy rain on high streets.

“Comparing the weekly trend with annual change in footfall enables us to see the fundamentals underlying shopper activity,” she commented. “So whilst footfall was hit hard in the first week of the month, declining by 17.1 per cent from the week before, it bounced back, rising by 25.5 per cent in the second week and by an average of 2.3 per cent over the month, demonstrating that deferred trips were reinstated when the weather improved.”

However, this bounce back was based on a reduced shopper pool compared to last year, with an annual decline of six per cent over the month demonstrating reduced shopper activity against 2017 figures.

“This is undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints attached to current price inflation and concern for the future, exacerbated by the underlying structural shift in consumer habits away from purely transaction based activity towards activity with a leisure focus,” added Wehrle.

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