Year-on-year footfall to UK stores fell by 3.3 per cent last month, (April 2018) according to figures from the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor. The figure represents a significant decline, especially when compared to the 1.6 per cent growth in footfall recorded in April 2017.
There was no growth in footfall for any UK region, for the second consecutive month. The decline was most dramatic in Northern Ireland, at 7.3 per cent, though some regions saw a slower decline, such as the 1.5 per cent drop recorded in Wales.
Nationally, the town centre vacancy rate was 9.2 per cent, up from 8.9 per cent in January.
“A wet start to April had a dampening effect on visits across the UK’s shopping locations adding to the long term downward in footfall resulting from changing consumer behaviour. That shift in the way we shop, coupled with a highly challenging business environment, is having a significant impact on the nation’s high streets: in April nearly 1 in 10 shops in town centres was vacant,” says BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE.
“While these figures highlight the difficulties faced by retailers, they also point to the evolution of the industry. Retailers are embracing changing customer behaviour and adapting to a challenging environment by rebalancing investment in physical and digital infrastructure. Policy-makers can help support our industry and the re-making of our high streets by creating a progressive policy environment that allows retailers to adapt successfully,” adds Dickinson.
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle says: “Much could be made of the adverse impact on April’s footfall of Easter shifting to March, but even looking at March and April together – so smoothing this out – still demonstrates that footfall has plummeted. A -3.3% drop in April, following on from -6% in March, resulted in an unprecedented drop of -4.8% over the two months. Not since the depths of recession in 2009, has footfall over March and April declined to such a degree, and even then the drop was less severe at -3.8%.
Footfall was especially poor in the first two weeks of April, recovering later in the month, says Wehrle. “Our in-store footfall trackers demonstrate that hospitality outlets lost proportionately less footfall than bricks and mortar destinations generally. So it is clear that retail trading is doubly challenged by a thrifty consumer in concert with a continuing predisposition towards leisure rather than retail spend; reflected by a rise in the vacancy rate to 9.2%,” she says.