Nov 11, 2019
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Rain and consumer caution dent UK footfall again

Nov 11, 2019

There was further confirmation of the bleak state of UK retail on Monday as specialist footfall tracker Springboard released visitor traffic figures for October. And what did they show? Unsurprisingly, another decline.

Rain kept UK shoppers out of stores again last month - Image Adrianna Calvo

Overall, visitor traffic to stores was down 3.2% year-on-year, which was worse than the September drop and trended below the three- and 12-month averages.

It’s interesting through that the biggest fall this time wasn’t in shopping centres but on the high street instead. High street footfall dropped 4.9% (much worse than the three-month average decline of 2.8%). 

Shopping centre footfall by contrast was down by ‘only’ 2.4%, which was a slight improvement on the three-month average of -2.6%. This could have been linked to consumers opting for under-cover locations as the weather worsened and starting their Christmas shopping in earnest.

But there was no other remotely good news as even retail parks declined for the first time in five months. Down 0.5%, this was below the three-month average of -0.2%.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said the month’s fall “was the worst result for October in seven years” and was linked to Brexit, but also to the weather.

“When confidence is low it doesn’t take much to deter shoppers and the torrential rain in the last week of the month hit footfall particularly hard, resulting in a drop over those seven days of 6.2%,” she said. “All three destination types – high streets, shopping centres and retail parks – were impacted by a much greater drop in the last week of the month than in the previous three. But by far the worst result came from high streets where footfall declined by 7.4%, which is not unexpected given their exposure to the elements. Indeed, the significant impact on high streets was felt across the board geographically, with footfall declining in all but one area and in four areas (Greater London, the South East, North & Yorkshire and Wales) the drop was in excess of 5%.”

That said, the vacancy rate improved slightly quarter-on-quarter, although this is a trend also seen in other years as pop-ups and temporary lets for Halloween and Christmas helped to fill up some empty retail spaces.

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