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Footfall falls again, but rate slows

Retail footfall fell in April, but the rate almost halved compared with March.

Retail footfall from 1-28 April decreased by 3.3%, according to the British Retail Consortium-Springboard Footfall Monitor. This compares with a 1.6% rise in April 2017 and a 6% drop in March and is in line with the three-month average of -3.5 and above the 12-month average of -1.8 per cent.

There was no growth in footfall for any UK region, now two months of consecutive decline. Most regions saw a slower rate of decline, most notable being Wales, 1.5%, and Greater London, 2.4%. However, footfall in Northern Ireland fell sharply by 7.3%.

‘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,’ said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.

‘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%,’ said Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director

‘Given the decline in footfall over the month, negative LFL retail sales was not unexpected. Indeed, we had an early warning sign of what was likely to come by the end of the second week, as footfall dropped by an enormous 9% over the first half of the month. In the last two weeks footfall did recover, averaging +1.5%, undoubtedly assisted by improved weather but it was not enough to repair the damage. Indeed, the parlous state of retail trading is highlighted by the fact that footfall post 5pm recovered in the last two weeks of the month, rising by +5.9%, whilst day time footfall dropped by 0.1%. 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%.’