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Retail footfall sees the biggest decline in five years as Brexit No Deal concerns bite

By Sasha Fedorenko March 11, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Retail footfall experienced the biggest decline in five years in February as Brexit no deal concerns weakened consumer spending, says BRC–Springboard footfall and vacancies February 2019 report.

The report covered the four weeks of retail sector starting from 27th of January 2019 and until 23rd of February 2019.

According to British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard figures released today footfall in February fell by 2%, a significant decline compared to the previous year where it fell by 0.2%. This is the fifteenth month of consecutive decline. This was the weakest February in five years.

High Street footfall declined by 1.9%, marking seven consecutive months of weakening for this shopping location. This was a deeper decline relative to the previous year when footfall fell by 1.2%.

Retail Parks footfall declined by 0.8%, a sharp decline on last year when it grew by 1.4%. The East Midlands and Wales experienced notable growth in this shopping location of 3.0% and 1.4%, respectively. Shopping centres footfall declined by 3.4%, a deeper decline than last year’s fall of 0.9%. No region experienced growth in this shopping location in February.

Consumers have been cautious in their spending, leading to the biggest drop in February footfall for five years. These figures echo the month’s poor Retail Sales figures, which saw weak growth, particularly in bricks-and-mortar stores. While real incomes have been rising over the last year, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit appears to be driving a needs-not-wants approach top shopping. Things could get a lot worse unless the Government is able to avoid a calamitous no deal Brexit. Such a scenario would likely result in higher costs, higher prices and less choice for consumers – all of which would further harm struggling retailers. The Government must act to protect both consumers and retailers by ensuring there is no chance of a no deal Brexit.
-Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive officer, British Retail Consortium

Footfall declined in all but one geography and in all but two areas the drop was greater than -2% with a fall of just -1.4% in Greater London. The result for London will in part have been due to Chinese New Year occurring in February this year, but it is actually not an unusual outcome as footfall in Greater London is generally the last to decline and the first to recover due to the diversity of its economy and sheer volume of activity. What would have seemed highly unlikely this time last year, is that there was a more modest decline in footfall during day time hours of -1.5% compared with -3.3% post 5pm. To some degree this will have been a consequence of the cost of evening dining which typically is higher than lunch; but the warm weather during what was half term week in many areas will have also increased the appeal of daytime trips for which evening trips will have been sacrificed.”
-Diane Wehrle, insights and marketing director, Springboard

While the report says that consumers are visiting less physical stores than five years ago, does it mean that they are turning to online destinations instead? There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the outcome of Brexit and its influence on the retail sector. With 18 days until the UK officially ends its membership with the EU, how are you preparing for Brexit?

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