Sun is shining again on Britain’s high streets

 

Britain’s high streets are bouncing back, with the warm weather sending shoppers back to traditional shopping venues.

Figures out from the British Retail Consortium showed high streets enjoyed a 1.4 per cent increase in shopper footfall June whenpared to last year. Out of town retail parks also showed some improvement, up 0.6 per cent. But shopping centres – effectively covered malls which can be either in towns or on the outskirts – continued to suffer with a 3 per cent fall.

Overall there was a 0.1 per cent improvement in footfall at all shopping venues when compared with June 2012. The same is true for the three April to June average, which showed a 0.1 per cent rise with the high street again doing best (up 1.3 per cent) and covered shopping centres the worst (down 2.6 per cent). Out of town retail parks saw a 0.7 per cent increase in footfall over the three month period.

June’s improvement will come as a relief to the embattled retail sector which endured a dismal May when many shoppers stayed at home and the BRC recorded a 0.7 per cent overall fall in consumer footfall.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: “The UK high street was busier in June, and BRC figures show that footfall has increased as we have seen shoppers take advantage of the good promotions available at the moment in stores.

“The relatively strong UK wide figures are reflected in modest increases in footfall in out-of-town retail, although shopping centres did not perform quite so well.”

Ms Dickinson identified the warm weather as a significant contributor saying, adding: “Our recent retail sales figures showed a strong performance from fashion and footwear and it is likely that shoppers took advantage of the start of the sunshine in June to visit their local high street and buy items for their summer wardrobes.”

As ever the figures mask sharp variations across the country, with the economic powerhouse of London continuing to outperform along with the West Midlands. Scotland and Wales were also in positive territory but much of the rest of the South of England and the North saw declines although not on the scale of Northern Ireland. Shops there endured a 5.9 per cent tumble in retail footfall.

Diane Wehrle, Retail Insights Director at Springboard, said part of the reason for gains on high streets can be put down to a greater decline in footfall than managed shopping locations in previous years. As such they start from a lower base. 

But she added: “The benefit of high streets being ‘open for business’ 24 hours a day is also key as it is footfall which falls outside usual retail trading hours – rather than between 9am and 5pm – which is improving, and clearly shielding high streets against the ill winds of a long term decline in customer numbers.”

Recent data from several sources has pointed to a general improvement in Britain’s economy, although manufacturing remains a lagard.

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