Footfall at the UK’s high street, shopping centres and retail parks was down by 1.6% overall in August compared with the previous year, in the sharpest decline since April.
The latest figures from retail intelligence agency Springboard show a downward trend in shopping trips across all UK regions except one – in Northern Ireland, numbers rose slightly by 0.5%.
Analysts said inflation caused food prices to rise, leading to a fall in non-essential purchases and physical shopping trips. The biggest decline occurred in the latter half of the month (-2% versus -0.9% in the first two weeks).
The high street had had a strong three months previously, and year-on-year footfall was up each month. In August, it declined by 2%. The trend is echoed by previous findings from accountancy firm BDO that showed high street fashion sales in August this year had been the worst since 2015.
Springboard figures show shopping centres continued to experience year-on-year falls, although August was down 2.4% year on year, versus July’s 3.4% fall. Retail parks fared better, particularly in the east and south-west of the country, where footfall grew by 5.1% and 4% respectively.
Helen Dickinson, chief-executive of the British Retail Consortium, called for the government to support retailers while shopper numbers are down: “British high streets experienced a quiet August this year as the continued squeeze on wages kept consumers away from the shops.
“With fewer shoppers visiting the high street and a difficult overall trading environment, the pressure is increasing on retailers as rising public policy costs continue to bite. The government must take action now and commit to a two-year freeze on business rates to help reduce the pressure of this disproportionate tax on retailers and allow for a fundamental reform of the business taxation system.”
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said it was encouraging to see retailers adapting to bring customers back: “The positive outcome of this pressure is that a number of retailers are working hard to reshape their proposition with the launch of new ranges, improved in-store experiences and technology enhancements in store and online, so they are fit for purpose moving forward.”