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Footfall down 4.6% as bad weather deters shoppers

Snowy weather deterred shoppers from hitting the high street in January as footfall dropped year-on-year.

Footfall in January was 4.6% lower than a year ago according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Retail Footfall Monitor. This figure was the lowest since April 2012, when shopper numbers declined 6.9%.

The hardest hit parts of the UK were the North & Yorkshire (-8.3%), East Midlands (-6.5%) and Scotland (-4.6%). Only two regions reported an increase in footfall in January, the South West (2.2%) and West Midlands (0.1%).

It follows a drop in December, when shopper numbers on the high street slipped by 1.2%.

Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: “This steep drop in footfall is obviously a cause for concern but, as our sales figures showed last week, fewer shoppers on the streets doesn’t seem to have dented sales growth in January. The mid-month snow took its toll on numbers of people out braving the elements, especially when making journeys to out-of-town retail parks, but it seems that many of us stayed one step ahead of the big chill and bought more on fewer shopping trips.”

Earlier this month the BRC reported that UK like-for-like retail sales were up 1.9% in January compared to January 2012, however clothing sales delivered their worst performance for 14 months, with the exception of Easter.

In January footfall fell across all locations monitored by the BRC.

Out-of-town locations reported the greatest fall (-7.2%) followed by shopping centres (-5.2%) and high street (-3.3%) locations.

Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, said: “Despite an encouraging start following a strong period of Boxing Day sales, the decline in footfall on the high street of -3.3% in January is the largest since 2010 with the severe weather undoubtedly deterring customers from venturing out to shop during a period when they were already stretched from Christmas.”

She added: “The greater decline in footfall in retail parks of -7.2% is a function of this, as shoppers were no doubt reluctant to drive in precarious conditions. What is unusual – particularly in the winter – is that the high street fared better than shopping centres which recorded a decline in footfall of -5.2%. One possible reason for this is the greater diversity of high streets which provide a wide ranging offer and a greater representation of independents.”

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