Shoppers continue to shun high street as visitor numbers drop 10% in seven years

‘Retailers are facing a sustained drop in footfall,’ experts say

Ben Chapman
Monday 14 October 2019 15:56
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September’s fall is partly down to wet weather
September’s fall is partly down to wet weather

The number of consumers visiting Britain’s shopping centres, retail parks and high streets has slumped 10 per cent over the last seven years, including a decline last month.

Overall retail footfall was down 1.7 per cent in September compared with the same month last year.

Shopping centres suffered the largest loss of customers, with 3.2 per cent fewer visitors in September than a year earlier, according to research by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and data company Springboard. High streets fared slightly better, registering a 1.8 per cent drop.

Footfall at retail parks, which tend to be sited out-of-town, rose 0.1 per cent, making it the only sector to experience an increase.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “Retailers are facing a sustained drop in footfall, with numbers of visitors down over 10 per cent in the last seven years alone. With Brexit looming, many consumers are holding off from all but essential purchases, and it is no surprise that the 1.7 per cent drop in footfall has also contributed to a similar fall in sales.

“High streets and shopping centres were hit hardest, with retail parks faring slightly better as they continue to entice shoppers with their varied consumer offering.”

Springboard’s marketing director Diane Wehrle pointed out that bad weather was the main factor keeping shoppers at home last month.

“Whilst the drop in footfall of 1.7 per cent in September was greater than in August, the vast majority of this decline emanated from the last week of the month when footfall was hit by exceptionally heavy rain,” she said.

Prior to that, performance had been relatively strong, Ms Wehrle noted.

She added: “Given the monumental changes that have occurred in our retail trading landscape over the past decade, it is unsurprising that the long-term footfall trend is a downward one.

“However, with 80 per cent of spend remaining in-store, there is still much for bricks-and-mortar stores to play for in the fourth quarter of 2019, which of course includes the all-important festive trading period.”

Music retailer HMV bucked the trend towards online shopping and away from the high street last week, opening a new store in Birmingham – the company’s largest.

HMV made the multimillion-pound investment eight months after it was bought out of administration.

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