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Easter and tourism boost April footfall

Footfall was up 1.6% year on year in April thanks to the later timing of the Easter holidays.

Retail parks enjoyed the highest spike in footfall during the month, up 2.7%, the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor shows. Footfall to high streets grew by 2.3%, but to shopping centres it declined by 0.6%.

Overall, footfall enjoyed its fastest monthly growth since March 2014. The figures were positively skewed by the later timing of Easter, which fell in April this year, as opposed to March last year.

The rise was fuelled further by the weakened pound, which drove an increase in overseas tourists. This drove a 2.7% uplift in footfall in London’s West End.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The Easter holidays boosted family visits to shopping destinations in April, resulting in the fastest annual growth of footfall since March 2014. The inclusion of the holidays in this period will have distorted this figure but even looking beyond this, the picture over the last quarter has been largely positive.

“As has been the trend for some months now, high streets across most of the UK attracted the largest increase in visitors out of all shopping destinations. This translated into good news for stores too, which saw their fastest annual sales growth since January last year.”

The national town centre vacancy rate was 9.3% in April, down from 9.4% in January – largely due to sharp declines in Greater London and the East of England.

Dickinson continued: “At first glance the vacancy rate also looks positive for the month, with a modest decline. However, this average figure belies the increase that occurred in all areas of the UK except London, the East and the North and Yorkshire.

“We will have to wait for the impact of April’s business rates revaluations to materialise, but the challenges businesses face as the UK negotiates its future relationship with Europe has made reducing the burden and fundamentally reforming the business tax system even more critical.”

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