UK footfall recovers in September but high streets lose out to retail parks

Kasmira Jefford
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High streets footfall was at its highest in seven months (Source: Getty)

Retailers enjoyed more visitors through their doors in September, boosted by the onset of the colder autumn weather and the August bank holiday falling into last month’s survey period.

Footfall was almost flat on September last year, down by just 0.2 per cent, figures released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and retail analysts Springboard show.

However this was an improvement on the 1.6 per cent decline in August – when consumers abandoned their shopping trips or escaped abroad due to the wet weather – and above the three-month average decline of 0.9 per cent.

Visitors to retail parks rose four per cent year-on-year, which was the highest figure since January 2014, when excluding Easter distortions.

High street retailers fared worse, reporting a decline in footfall of 1.4 per cent, despite being the best performance recorded in seven months. Shopping centres fell by 1.3 per cent.

There has been a raft of positive news for the UK retail sector this month after separate figures from the BRC revealed a 2.6 per cent jump in retail sales in September.

This also coincided with the Local Data Company and PWC reporting that UK vacancy rates and shop closures have fallen to a five-year low.

Retailers including Ted Baker, N Brown and homeware chain Dunelm have all recorded stronger sales in September, partly driven by the easy comparatives on last year, when the mild autumn weather made it difficult for retailers to shift jumpers and heavier items of clothing.

Springboard’s marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle, said: “The perfect autumn weather, additional bank holiday trading day and lowest vacancy rate for two years are key drivers behind relatively pleasing figures for September.”

“Perfect seasonal weather is vital to high street fashion sales, with over a quarter of retailers we asked (26.8 per cent) confirming that they brought forward store drops of autumn/winter stock this season,” she added.

Despite the improvement in footfall overall, only three regions reported growth in the period. The east Midlands, greater London and the south east of England were up 0.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively. Other regions reported footfall below the UK average.

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