Better weather ups high street footfall, yet shopping centres see decline

By Sasha Fedorenko April 16, 2019 - 2:03 pm

Better weather has upped high street footfall although shopping centres are continuing to see 24 months-long footfall decline, says BRC-Springboard Footfall figures.

According to BRC-Springboard, high street’s footfall was up by 1.4% in March on year-on-year (Yo) basis. This shows a change from the ‘Beast from the East’ last year which saw footfall drop to -6% in March.

The percentage of shoppers visiting high streets rose by 2.5% compared to last year’s results. That’s up from -8.6% in March 2018.

Shopping centres’ footfall was down by 1% last month. This marks 24 consecutive months of decline in footfall. The number of shoppers visiting retail parks increased by 1.5% on a YoY basis.

Retailers will be relieved to see footfall up from last year though this was heavily influenced by the weather: while shoppers in 2018 were contending with the “Beast from the East”, this March has been mild by comparison. Unfortunately, the higher footfall has not translated into higher spending. The data also showed that shopping centres continue to suffer, with 24 consecutive months of decline in footfall. It is vital that all different shopping locations are fit for the future, offering a mix of retail and experience-led opportunities that generate the necessary footfall to succeed. Furthermore, the Government can support this transformation by reforming the outdated business rates system which holds back firms from investing in physical space.”
– Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium

At first sight, the year on year rise in footfall of +1.4% in March appears to signify a reverse in trend from the previous two years, when footfall dropped in all but two of the past 22 months. However, whilst news of an improvement in footfall would be most welcome, it is simply not the case, and instead, the rise of +1.4% should be regarded as an exceptional circumstance relating to a dramatic slump in footfall in March 2018 of -6%. Indeed, this was by far the worst monthly result of the year and adversely influenced the outcome for footfall in 2018 as a whole.”
– Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director, Springboard

The finding’s show that high street’s footfall can be beyond retailers’ control. This also highlights the nature of physical retailing which is influenced by factors such as weather and changing shopping preferences. However, the onus is on retailers to rethink the concept of physical store shopping and use their drawbacks to their advantage – whether it’s offering click-and-collect or adding experiential elements to their in-store model.

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