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High street footfall drops 4.8% in May but long-term trend is positive

Published: 10 June 2019 - Fiona Garcia

The latest figures from the BRC and Springboard reveal that the UK experienced its worst footfall in six years last month, with declines across all regions and retail locations, as colder weather and ongoing political uncertainty “made consumers think twice before heading out to the shops.” However, Springboard says the forecast in the long-term is more positive, as the slowdown in shoppers visiting retail locations is showing signs of reduction.

In total, footfall for the four weeks April 28 to May 25 fell 3.5% in May, compared to the same point last year when it declined by 0.4%. High Street footfall declined by 4.8%. Following from the increase of 0.5% in May last year. Other retail locations also saw shopper numbers fall, with footfall in retail parks down 0.8% and also down 3.6% in shopping centres across the UK.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said of the findings: “The UK experienced the worst footfall figures in six years (excluding Easter distortions), with declines in every region, and across high streets, retail parks and shopping centres. This reflects our recent sales data, which showed the largest drop in retail sale on record. The colder weather, as well as ongoing political and economic uncertainty, made many consumers think twice before heading out to the shops this May.”

Mr Dickinson also criticised the prohibitive costs retailers face, despite seeing a decline in the flow of customers through their doors: “While consumers stayed away from the shops this May, retailers still had to pay the full cost of business rates, which are levied regardless of whether a store makes a penny at the till. These rising costs are making many retailers rethink investment decisions, as well as contributing to store closures up and down the country. The Government must act to reform this anachronistic tax system or it will be the consumers who suffer the shuttered windows at their local shopping locations.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said the disappointing figures were not a surprise, given the warmer weather during the comparative trading period last year. She commented: “The -3.5% drop in footfall in UK bricks-and-mortar destinations in May is a poor result and is consistent with the drop in sales for the month. However, we should note the year-on-year comparisons are off the back of a particularly strong result in May last year of -0.4%, which was boosted by warm weather and special events and followed on from a challenging April marred by bad weather and loss of seasonal sales due to the early March Easter.

“All destination types found it much tougher this May to attract customers but, the fact that the greatest impact was felt by high streets with a drop in footfall of -4.8% is not a surprise, given the much poorer weather than in May last year.”

She added that, despite the recent declines, the drop in shopper numbers across retail locations has, in fact, slowed: “Nonetheless, it is really important to note the longer-term trend, with footfall declining by just 1.1% over the five month period since January. This a much improved position on the drop of 2.4% over the same five-month period last year, showing us that the reduction in customers visiting retail destinations this year has slowed, a more positive result than might have been expected.”



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