Summer of Decline for High Street Footfall


September 2019

Summer of Decline for High Street Footfall

High street retailers saw their number of customers fall by 3.1% over the summer, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard.

The latest figures from the data company and the BRC revealed that retail footfall last month fell by 1.3% compared to August 2018. This is however slightly lower than the year-on-year retail footfall decline seen in July, which was at -1.9%.

Both high street retailers and shopping centres saw declining customer numbers in August, with year-on-year footfall dropping by 1.9% and 2.2% respectively. However, the one area to see an increase in customers was retail parks, which recorded a 1% annual increase in footfall in August, after a 0.3% annual increase at the same time last year.

“Increasingly cautious consumers are holding back on discretionary spending and not heading out to the shops,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC. “Only retail parks, with their combination of activities and shopping, were able to buck the trend, and there is little sign that the stresses on retail will abate any time soon.

“Stuck between weak demand thanks to Brexit uncertainty, and rising costs resulting from business rates and other public policy costs, many retailers are clearly struggling. The government should take the opportunity to reduce the heavy cost burden holding back retail investment.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “In the face of weak consumer confidence and declining sales a drop in footfall of -1.3% in August wasn’t unexpected. We must remember that declining footfall is a long-term trend with annual increases being the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, footfall has declined in every year since Springboard started publishing its national data in January 2009.

“In contrast to the high street, footfall in retail parks rose in each of the first three weeks, averaging +1%, levelling off in the last week but remaining in positive territory. This demonstrates their ongoing attractiveness to shoppers as they continue to bridge the convenience-experience gap, necessary in today’s retail environment.”

Falling retail footfall is another is another warning sign to the British economy, as it struggles with declining investment, a falling pound and stagnant house prices, all in the face of political and economic uncertainty ahead of the Brexit deadline on October 31.