Shopper numbers fall as consumers tighten belts

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Retailers in areas with high numbers of public-sector workers have experienced catastrophic declines in the number of shoppers in the past year as fear of unemployment has led to a tightening of belts.

Regional footfall figures for July published today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard reveal that Wales has been worst hit, with shopper numbers plummeting by 9.2 per cent in the past 12 months. Shops in the West Midlands have also been hit hard and have suffered a 6.6 per cent decline in footfall, while numbers fell by 6.2 per cent in the East of England.

However, shopper numbers rose by 1.2 per cent in London over the period – reinforcing economic data that suggests there is a growing divide between the capital the rest of the country. There were also small rises in the South-west – which saw a 0.4 per cent increase in footfall– and Scotland, with a 0.2 per cent rise.

Stephen Robertson, the director-general of the British Retail Consortium, said the figures laid bare sharp regional differences.

He said: "This is the first time we've been able to publish footfall and vacancy figures in this level of detail and it shows stark differences in retail health between some of the UK's nations and regions."

"Generally, the parts of the UK where the public sector is a bigger proportion of the economy are the ones where customer spending is most likely to be hit by worries about job prospects and cuts, meaning people are shopping less and more retail businesses are failing."

"By both measures, Northern Ireland and Wales are suffering particularly badly."