Retail sector shows signs of strengthening as shoppers return to the high street

Kathryn Gaw
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Shoppers are starting to return to the High Street as footfall shows signs of improvement in October (Source: Getty)

Retailers saw footfall drop in October, but at a slower rate than the previous month, as shoppers headed to the high street despite the lure of online shopping.

Springboard UK’s latest figures showed a less severe fall last month compared to September.

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“The slight strengthening of footfall in October to -0.4 per cent from -0.9 per cent in September demonstrates that any worries about economic uncertainty are not yet adversely impacting footfall,” said Springboard Insights director Diane Wehrle. “However, the ongoing drop in daytime footfall demonstrates challenges in attracting shoppers to bricks and mortar stores. And whilst a boost in luxury sales due to the weak pound has been widely reported, this is not reflected in increased footfall as it is driven by higher value purchases.”

The footfall statistics suggest that bargain-hunting is still a top priority for shoppers, with many prepared to travel to retail parks in search of a better deal. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, noted that October’s BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed a 1.7 per cent increase in like-for-like sales growth across the country,

“[This] perhaps suggests that shoppers may still be prepared to shell out for a bargain, but they are increasingly doing so from their laptops or mobile devices,” she added.

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The vacancy rate of UK shops has also started to drop, falling to 9.5 per cent in October, down from 10.1 per cent in July.

“The vacancy rate always lags behind trends in footfall and sales due to the stickiness of the property market, and so the relatively stable footfall trend over the summer will have undoubtedly contributed to the improvement in the vacancy rate,” said Wehrle.

“The vacancy rate also improved at the same time last year and so, to some degree, this is driven by an increase in short term lets in the run up to Christmas. In order to avoid the same pattern of an increase in vacancies post-Christmas repeating itself, it is critical for retailers – and retail destinations – to deliver the best in class in terms of both price and experience.”

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