Jul 16, 2018
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UK summer footfall continues downward trend say Springboard/BRC

Jul 16, 2018

A key monthly UK retail report for June seems to show that British shoppers are still turning away from physical stores and that a slight recovery seen in June in year ago was just a flash in the pan.

Footfall remained weak in June

Specialist tracking firm Springboard and the British retail Consortium said on Monday that footfall in June fell 0.9% year-on-year. It had risen 0.8% in June 2017, but this time the news wasn't so good. And June’s drop was also worse than the 0.4% fall seen during May.

There was a bit of good news though as the high street saw growth of 0.1%, the second month of consecutive growth since November 2017. Against growth of 0.9% in June 2017, June 2018’s high street footfall performed “decently”.

But it was all downhill from there. Retail parks, which had been the strongest destination type of all for some time, experienced a decline of 0.4% in June against a tough comparable of a 2.3% rise last year.

And beleaguered shopping centres saw a drop in footfall of 3.4%, a deeper decrease than the 0.8% decline of last year. June 2018 is now the 15th month of consecutive decline.

Given that retail parks and shopping centres are where fashion retailers have their heaviest presence, with relatively few fashion chains left on Britain's declining high-streets, outside of a few of the larger destinations, it was a tough report to read for the fashion sector.

There were some regional bright spots, with the West Midlands, the North & Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and Wales all rising. The biggest decline was in the East Midlands (2.7%).

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said: “The drop in footfall in June, the seventh in as many months, means that we are now in the longest period of continued footfall decline since 2015. 

“However, with drops of less than 1% in both May and June, the three month rolling average is now -1.5%, the most favourable result since November 2017.” 

But she said that the underlying results reveal the pressures facing retailers, and footfall during retail trading hours declined across all three destination types, which means that any increases could be accounted for by shoppers visiting locations such as restaurants and cafes after most shops have closed.

Wehrle added: “Clearly many shopping centres need to transform quickly to be able to capitalise once again on their inherent assets of cohesive management and strength of offer. Understanding today’s consumer appetite for even local destinations to deliver retail alongside leisure and hospitality, will enable centres to capture footfall attracted by a variety of lifestyle uses; which is essential if shopping centres are to turn the tide on the ongoing decline.”

Meanwhile, BRC chief Executive Helen Dickinson said that June’s heatwave was largely to blame. However, she added that “consumer behaviour has changed, with shoppers now requiring much more choice in terms of how, when and where they shop.”

She said that retailers are responding to this, investing in their physical store experiences and online presence. Initiatives such as the Government’s Great British High Street Awards "are increasingly important as communities adapt and thrive during this period of retail transformation. However, considerable pressure on retail remains, but policy makers can help by supporting our call for a two-year freeze in business rate increases to provide some headroom while a reform of the business rates system is carried out.”

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