BRC urges government action to grow city centre footfall

UK footfall decreased by 34.8 per cent in August, with only a 7.3 per cent improvement from July, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and ShopperTrak data.

Footfall on high streets declined by 41.7% year-on-year and was the worst performing location in August, falling below shopping centres for the first time since April 2018.

Retail parks saw footfall decrease by 11.1 per cent year-on-year, although wider open spaces, a higher proportion of supermarkets and larger stores quicker to reopen helped to shelter the sector from a steeper decline.

Shopping centre footfall declined by 37.4 per cent year-on-year. This was over 10 per cent less than in July, but remained below its 12-month average decline of 32.2 per cent.

Northern Ireland saw the shallowest shopping centre footfall decline of all regions, down only 13.2 per cent. Wales saw a shallower rate of decline than the UK average, down 32.4 per cent but Scotland was some way behind, down 42.8 per cent.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that in-store discounting and demand for school wear helped lure some customers back to the shops, “but with many office blocks still empty and much of the public avoiding public transport, footfall is not returning to towns and city centres and this is having a devastating effect on the local economies in these areas”.

She pointed out that there is unlikely to be any significant growth in footfall while government advice remains to ‘work from home if you can’, and urged that more should be done to encourage people to travel and reassure them that public transport is safe.

“Government should also recognise that, while footfall is so low, many businesses will not be able to manage their fixed costs - rent and business rates in particular - and unnecessary job losses and store closures will follow.”

Andy Sumpter, EMEA retail consultant at ShopperTrak, said that the footfall rise towards the end of August can in part be attributed to the last days of the Eat Out to Help Out campaign.

“August also saw the UK recovery climb to second amongst its European peers, behind France,” he added. “Whilst this is encouraging to see, retailers are dealing with traffic levels that are still around a third lower than the same time last year.”

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