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High street and shopping centres fail on footfall

The high street and shopping centres have continued to struggle drawing in crowds of consumers, with both retail destinations reporting a decline in footfall last month.

Out of town locations continued its upwards trajectory, seeing footfall rise 1.2% in May, but 1% fewer people visited high streets, according to figures published this morning by the British Retail Consortium/Springboard. Shopping centres saw the biggest decline, down 1.7%.

Both were below the UK’s average, although this also fell by 0.7%.

Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and East Midlands fared the worst on a regional basis, down 3.1%, 2.9% and 2.6% respectively.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “On the surface these figures are fairly flat, but they’re masking widespread regional variations and only two areas in England – Greater London and the East – are showing positive footfall growth compared with May 2012. 

“As the recent unemployment figures highlighted, the outlook in terms of job prospects and economic growth is by no means ‘one size fits all’ across the UK.”

She added that while there was a drop in footfall, sales across retail generally had been “respectable”, suggesting that “conversion rates were good” – although fashion continued to struggle.

Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, highlighted two trends – the continued discrepancy between the performance of large regional cities compared with smaller cities and towns and the resilience of the “nighttime economy”, with footfall rising after work hours.

She had already picked up on this trend when speaking with Drapers last month, suggesting that savvy retailers that stay open after 6pm could benefit from passing traffic.

Wehrle said: “Town centres benefit from greater diversity than the majority of shopping centres, and the evening economy is clearly protecting and insulating the high street. This reflects the feedback we are receiving from town centre managers who state that by far the strongest demand for units is from food and beverage occupiers who operate outside of retail trading hours.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Is this any surprise? I am not totally convinced the consumer "cake" has got smaller but we are cutting it into smaller slices as consumers have more choice as to where they go to shop. No doubt in my mind that there should be a ban on the opening of further new retail centres/out of town locations.

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