High street footfall declined by 2.6% in August, and shopping centre footfall decelerated to -0.8% in the same period, according to the Springboard retail footfall figures. In contrast, retail parks continued their recent trend of positive growth; footfall increased in August by 1.6%, slightly less than in July when it increased by 1.7%.
The East, South East and Wales were the three regions that saw footfall growth in the period covering the four weeks July 30 – August 26, 2017, with the fastest growth in the East, which has now seen nine months of consecutive footfall growth.
East Midlands High Street footfall declined further by 4.9% in August, marking six months of consecutive year-on-year decline.
Overall the steepest decline in footfall in August occurred in Greater London (-2.0%) and Northern Ireland (-2.3%). This was the second consecutive month of negative year-on-year growth after a period of recovery for the capital.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “Last month's prediction of increasingly constrained consumer activity seems to being borne out with footfall once again dropping across all parts of the day, and accelerating post 5pm to -2% from just -0.5% in July. High street footfall tumbled to -2.6% in August, the third month out of the last four in which footfall has dropped by more than -2% and the worst result this year.
“At least part of the reason for more subdued footfall was a rise in online activity, in terms of both value and volume. Online sales rose by +11%, the greatest rise this year and significantly up on the +6.2% last August and the +8.3% in July. The uplift in online sales volumes at +8.7% was a third higher than the +5.5% in July, with the increase in transactions via mobile devices of 27.6% higher than in any month since October last year. In part the rise in online activity will have been a result of much cooler, rainy weather this August than in 2016, which undoubtedly discouraged some shopping trips. However, it is also a function of increasing inflationary pressures, driving consumers online in a search for lower prices, which is likely to only become more significant as inflation continues to increase its bite on household budgets.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, added: “Encouraging shoppers back to more of our town centres is crucial to reducing the high number of vacant premises and the increasing gap between the vibrant and in-demand areas and those at the much more economically fragile end of the spectrum. The increasing number of locations falling further and further behind continues to grow. These areas clearly have their work out to attract custom with the right mix of retail, leisure and other facilities and ensuring ease of access and parking.
“From a retailer point, the sheer cost of doing business on our high streets has direct implications for the affordability of retailers’ investments in new or refurbished stores.
“A far more concerted and urgent effort is required from policymakers to stem and ultimately reduce the cost of doing business, particularly in our more economically-fragile communities. Not applying the planned inflationary increase to business rates next April would be a place to start.”