Retail footfall has seen a spike after 6pm while working-hour numbers remain muted - suggesting retailers should look towards later opening to increase their catchment.
Figures published this week by the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Footfall Monitor show that April’s footfall edged up just 1% year on year.
High streets were the only retail destination to show any real signs of growth, up 3.4%, while out-of-town centres were muted at 0.3%. Shopping centres declined 3% for the month.
Looking over the three-month period from February, there have been drops across the board - down 0.8%, 2% and 2.3% respectively.
But Springboard identified a glimmer of hope for retailers, highlighting how high streets - which benefit from restaurants and bars likely to attract consumers outside of work hours - have seen a 4.9% rise in footfall after 6pm.
Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle told Drapers fashion businesses that open later in the day could capitalise on this. “There is a real opportunity for retailers if they open beyond standard trading hours, until at least the early evening,” she said. “If you look at most people’s lives, the time they have to relax and spend money is after work, not squeezed into an hour when they have to rush back to the office.”
She acknowledged that retailers had experimented with this in the past but said they needed to stick with it for a cultural pattern of evening shopping to emerge. “At first people don’t realise they are open, so it will take time, but there is a lot of opportunity for those who stick with it,” she said. “If people are thinking how to increase turnover, opening later rather than opening lots of new shops might be the solution.”
Some city centres have already benefited from later opening hours. The Trinity Leeds development attracted
2.7 million visitors in its first month - ahead of expectations - with many of the retailers open until 8pm.
With footfall growth remaining sluggish, the BRC/Springboard figures also revealed that vacancy rates reached an all-time high of 11.9% across the 450 locations monitored.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson noted this was “driven by increases in almost every part of the UK, with some regions like the Southwest seeing a significant leap in empty shop numbers”.