Retail rocked by ‘disappointing’ August decline


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The Independent Online

Retail’s golden summer finally came to a halt in August with shopper footfall at its lowest level since March.

That is what is suggested by this morning’s footfall monitor produced by the British Retail Consortium.

The year-on-year figures for August 2013 showed a 0.9 per cent fall in the numbers of people passing through the doors of the three main categories of retail space.

The high street – the subject of much debate in recent weeks – fared slightly better than the overall figure but still showed an overall fall of 0.6 per cent.

Shopping centres fared worst of all with a 2.2 per cent decline while out-of- town developments did better – there was no change in numbers there.

The disappointing figures mean that the June-August three-monthly average shows no change in shopper numbers on last year. The high street was up 1.1 per cent over the period, out of town was better by 0.5 per cent but shopping centres again lagged, down 2.5 per cent.

The BRC sought to caution that the figures represent only one month’s numbers and insisted the outlook is still “bright”.

Nonetheless, there was only one UK region to report growth, and the North & Yorkshire only saw a 0.1 per cent improvement. All other regions and UK nations showed declines. 

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “A slight fall in shopper numbers is disappointing after several months of positive results, but there are a few factors at play. We’re comparing against August 2012, when an Olympic influx in some areas pushed up the UK average, and it’s also possible that more of us took our holidays after electing to stay put for last year’s summer of sport.”

She said the figures need to be  “taken in tandem with the recent rosier economic news, including a good run of sales growth and many of us starting to feel more positive about the economy”.

However, the UK growth figures have yet to be translated into wages outpacing stubbornly high inflation, which would likely continue to constrain the spending of those shoppers who did turn out.