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Heatwave stunts high street footfall growth in July

Published: 10 August 2018 - Fiona Garcia

Town centres measured a 0.3% uplift in footfall in July; the third consecutive month of growth, although a decline across UK retail parks showed consumers lacked the energy for longer shopping trips in the hot weather.

Growth on the high street this July was against a weak comparable said Springboard of its Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, with a 2.1% decline in July 2017, so “relatively easy to beat”.

Footfall in retail park locations declined by 0.5% in July in comparison to the same month last year, when footfall increased by 1.7%. This is a larger decline than the three-month average of -0.1%. Footfall in shopping centres fell by 3.4% in July, a deeper decrease compared to the 1.3% decrease in July 2017.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “The hot, dry weather in July turned consumers’ attentions to eating, drinking and enjoying the outdoors. That provided a small lift for high streets as shoppers popped out to grab food, drink and fans to keep cool. However, the heat sapped shoppers’ stamina for longer trips with both retail parks and shopping centres seeing footfall sink.”

Only 2 regions saw footfall growth in July: the West Midlands, which reported a 1.6% uplift and has now seen two consecutive months growth; and Scotland, which saw footfall rise 0.5%.

The Springboard figures follows news that in-store non-food sales declined 1% in the three months to July.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said of the figures: “Inevitably the hot weather in July impacted visits to retail destinations, as the attraction of external environments and non-retail experiences lured consumers away from stores. But the fact that footfall in high streets rose marginally and only declined slightly in retail parks, whilst dropping by 3.4% in shopping centres, gives the greatest insight into consumer trends.


“Undoubtedly the convenience of retail parks supported their footfall in July, with summer-led purchases of garden furniture and BBQ's helping to offset poor furniture sales. And, the increasing presence of food and beverage on parks clearly boosted footfall by +0.2% between 5pm and 8pm. In high streets, the very marginal -0.3% decline in footfall during shopping hours and a +1.7% rise post 5pm is indicative of their ability to cater for shoppers' demands. In contrast, in shopping centres the drop in footfall of -3.9% during retail trading hours was exacerbated by a -0.7% decline post 5pm, driven by a paucity of hospitality offer. Shopping centres are also hampered by the dominance of fashion and department stores/large multi retail units, with footfall entering these types of stores declining by more than footfall generally.”

Meanwhile, the national town centre vacancy rate was 9.2% in July 2018, unchanged from April 2018 and down from 9.6% in July 2017. Most regions remain largely unchanged since April 2018, with the most improved region being West Midlands, now 10.2% from 11.8% in April.

However, this could be expected to change with a host of potential store closures in the pipeline, including House of Fraser and Homebase.

Diane Wehrle added: “With the announcement of store closures made, but not yet all implemented, the vacancy rate for the UK remains at 9.2%. Counter-intuitively the vacancy rate improved over the quarter in five geographies, however, this may be accounted for by temporary lets over the summer taking advantage of space released from stores that have already ceased trading.”


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