Wet weather deterred shoppers from venturing outdoors in April as high streets suffered the worst drop in footfall since November 2009.
Footfall in the three months to April was 2% lower than a year ago, according to the British Retail Consortium/Springboard-ATCM Footfall and Vacancies Monitor. The high streets suffered most dramatically with footfall dropping by 6.4% compared with shopping centre footfall falling by 0.8% and out of town shopping areas rising by 1.2%.
Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, said: “Proof that rain was a leading factor can be seen from the fact that enclosed shopping centres were the only environment that saw positive footfall figures during April’s downpours. Out-of-town – where particular outlets tend to be the focus for shoppers, helping to make them weather resistant – saw a welcome rise in footfall across the quarter, also thanks in part to the free and plentiful parking on offer.”
Scotland, the East and Greater London bared the brunt of the weather with shopper numbers falling by 12.6%, 8.9% and 8.2%respectively. Wales was the only region to show increased footfall with a 0.6% rise.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Double digit declines in shopper numbers in April in almost every part of the UK and stubbornly high shop vacancy rates confirm how tough conditions are for customers and retailers. Some of that is about seasonal factors – the comparison with last year when the weather was better, Easter was later and there was an extra bank holiday - but essentially consumers lack confidence, disposable incomes are still dropping and fewer people are shopping for anything that isn’t essential.”
He added that although warmer weather in March helped, cold and wet weather combined with a widespread lack of spare cash kept shoppers at home in April.
The national town centre vacancy rate was 11.1% in the UK in April 2012, which remained unchanged from January 2012 and October 2011. Northern Ireland (16.6%), the North and Yorkshire (13.5%) and West Midlands (12.9%) recorded the highest vacancy rates.