High Street Footfall Declines In Every Region

UK retailers suffered the sharpest level of monthly footfall decline in six years during May, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium.

The latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor showed that footfall declined by 3.5% in May, compared to the same point last year when it declined by just 0.4%.

The falling footfall figures came across all retail destinations, with high street footfall declining 4.8%, retail parks falling 0.8% and shopping centres by 3.6%.

On a three-month basis, footfall across the UK fell by 0.7%. The six-month average is -1.3% and the 12-month average is -1.4%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive | British Retail Consortium

“The UK experienced the worst footfall figures in six years*, with declines in every region, and across High Streets, Retail Parks and Shopping Centres. This reflects our recent sales data, which showed the largest drop in retail sale on record. The colder weather, as well as ongoing political and economic uncertainty, made many consumers think twice before heading out to the shops this May.

“While consumers stayed away from the shops this May, retailers still had to pay the full cost of Business Rates, which are levied regardless of whether a store makes a penny at the till. These rising costs are making many retailers rethink investment decisions, as well as contributing to store closures up and down the country. The Government must act to reform this anachronistic tax system or it will be the consumers who suffer the shuttered windows at their local shopping locations.”

*This excludes Easter distortions, caused by the popular Easter shopping period falling in different months in consecutive years.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director

“The -3.5% drop in footfall in UK bricks and mortar destinations in May is a poor result and is consistent with the drop in sales for the month.  However, we should note the year on year comparisons are off the back of a particularly strong result in May last year of -0.4% which was boosted by warm weather and special events and followed on from a challenging April marred by bad weather and loss of seasonal sales due to the early March Easter.

“All destination types found it much tougher this May to attract customers, but the fact that the greatest impact was felt by high streets with a drop in footfall of -4.8% is not a surprise given the much poorer weather than in May last year.  Footfall worsened across all parts of the day, but the most significant drop occurred post 5pm, moving from a rise of +1.9% in May last year to a decline of -4.5% this year.  It is clear that consumers are being ever more discerning in their dining habits, and recent failures in the sector indicate both the level of competition and suggests that the everyday dining operators need to provide a more tempting food offer keep customers for the post 5pm spend slot.

“Nonetheless, it is really important to note the longer term trend, with footfall declining by just -1.1% over the five month period since January.  This a much improved position on the drop of -2.4% over the same five month period last year, showing us that the reduction in customers visiting retail destinations this year has slowed, a more positive result than might have been expected.”

Commenting on today’s announcement UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “A one-month drop in footfall is not particularly conclusive and doesn’t necessarily point to a wider trend or problem within hospitality. It would also be unfair to lay the blame for any decline in footfall post-5pm with hospitality, evening or late-night operators.

“Arguably, it could be that customers are being turned off by lacklustre retail offerings and so are burned out earlier in the day. High street businesses are symbiotic and you need a vibrant retail sector to encourage people out onto high streets throughout the day and into the evening. There may also be a move towards neighbourhood or off high street eating and drinking out; waiting until one is closer to home before eating out or grabbing a drink.

“What can be stated with much more confidence is that if we want to see more people spending money on their high streets and doing so longer into the evening, we need a more supportive regulatory environment. Support for hospitality businesses could help sustain neighbourhood shops and high streets more generally. In London, the Mayor has listened to the Night Time Commission’s recommendations and pledged to introduce Night Time Enterprise Zones which should help boost footfall, and crucially spend, on high streets into the evening.”