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Footfall slips while nationwide vacancy rate stands at 11.2%

Footfall between May and July was 1% lower than the same period a year earlier, with the hardest hit locations being Wales, the west Midlands and the East of England.

According to the BRC/Springboard-ATCM Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, the UK town centre vacancy rate stood at 11.2% in May.

Falling shopper numbers in the UK were driven by a 1.9% fall in people visiting out of town centres. The number of people entering shopping centres rose by 0.6%.

High streets on average have seen a drop of 2.6% in the last year, with Wales down 9.2%, the west Midlands down 6.6% and the East of England down 6.2%.

The only locations that saw shopper numbers rise were greater London, up 1.6%, the south west, up 0.4%, and Scotland, up 0.2%.

Northern Ireland (17.1%), Wales (13.4%) and the north and Yorkshire (13.1%) recorded the highest vacancy rates.

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “In July, all types of shopping locations saw reduced footfall year-on-year and that was before the effect of this month’s disturbances in England. Fewer people are shopping because households are facing high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about future job prospects. But that’s slightly offset by hard-up customers spreading their spending over more but less costly shopping trips. For the quarter, the one per cent drop in shopper numbers compared with this time last year is not great but is actually an improvement on the 1.3 per cent fall over the twelve months before that. 

“This is the first time we’ve been able to publish footfall and vacancy figures in this level of detail and it shows stark differences in retail health between some of the UK’s nations and regions. Generally, the parts of the UK where the public sector is a bigger proportion of the economy are the ones where customer spending is most likely to be hit by worries about job prospects and cuts, meaning people are shopping less and more retail businesses are failing. By both measures, Northern Ireland and Wales are suffering particularly badly.”

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