BRC: footfall decline in retail parks accelerates, but high streets see slight increase

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The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and analysts Springboard have announced the results of the footfall and vacancies monitor for February.

Footfall in February was 1.0% down on a year ago. However, high street footfall rose 0.1% in February on the previous year’s rate of -2.9%.

Footfall in retail park locations fell 1.6% in February, compared to a 2.5% increase in February 2016. This is an acceleration on January’s fall of 0.4%. Footfall in shopping centres fell 2.6% in February on the -0.6% equivalent rate in the same month of 2016.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE commented: “Visits to retail destinations fell by 1% in February, which marks little change to what has been a familiar story over the past few years. Although, given the disappointing in-store sales so far in 2017, the decline in footfall last month is unsurprising.

“On closer inspection, there has been a steeper drop than normal in retail parks, with footfall to this shopping destination falling at the fastest rate since November 2013. In comparison, footfall on the high-street grew marginally, likely driven by its diverse offer.

“The modest relief fund for business rates announced in the Budget will hopefully go some way to helping those shops hardest hit, albeit only temporarily. It won’t however ease the burden for the majority of retailers who will continue to pay nearly a half of rental values in property tax. A business tax system that continues to curtail investment in bricks and mortar is at odds with an industry that desperately wants to invest in order to maintain local jobs and build more experience and engagement with shoppers to attract them into their stores.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “Footfall in February was a tale of two halves. Whilst footfall improved slightly with a drop of -1.0% compared to -1.3% in January, however, this decline is not reflective of the stabilisation of consumer behaviour.

“Increasing uncertainty arising from the imminent triggering of Article 50 has certainly started to have an impact on purchasing behaviour, the types of destinations shoppers are visiting and how they spend their money. High Streets are clearly benefiting as the destination of choice for dining and leisure, whilst shopping centres continue to underperform as they struggle with a weak entertainment and leisure offer, coupled with increasing caution amongst consumers around retail spend.

“Retail parks experienced their biggest drop in footfall (-1.6%) since November 2013 as spend on furniture and household items – traditionally a significant footfall driver for retail parks – weakened slightly in February. High Streets now have the opportunity to further promote their offer and pull in visitors to shop and dine.”

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