Retailers on the high street challenged by “thrifty consumer” and poor weather, as footfall drops 3.3% year on year, compared with 1.6% uplift last April
The decline is in line with the three-month average of -3.5 and below the 12-month average of -1.8%.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), there was no growth in footfall for any UK region, now two months of consecutive decline. However, some regions saw a slower rate of decline, most notably being Wales at 1.5%, and Greater London at 2.4%.
Northern Ireland had a tougher month, with footfall falling sharply by 7.3% from -1.8% the previous month, the 3-month average being now -2.9%.
The BRC also reported an increase in the national town centre vacancy rate was, up from 8.9% in January to 9.2% in April 2018. All regions saw an increase in the vacancy rate, except Greater London, where the rate dropped to 3.6% from 5.6% in January 2018.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “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 one in 10 shops in town centres was vacant.”
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle: “Given the decline in footfall over the month, negative like-for-like 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%.”