High Street footfall rose 0.1 per cent in February, compared to a drop of 2.9 per cent in the same period last year.
The figures, released in Springboard’s monthly footfall report, also showed a small recovery in overall footfall, which fell by 1 per cent in February compared to 1.3 per cent in January.
However, retail parks continued to attract fewer visitors, with a year-on-year drop of 1.6 per cent in February, accelerating from the 0.4 per cent fall in January. Shopping centres experienced a similar decline, with footfall down 2.6 per cent last month compared to a drop of 0.6 per cent in February 2016.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, explained that the change was due to anxiety over the triggering of Article 50, which is making consumers more discerning about where they shop. “High Streets are clearly benefiting as a destination of choice for dining and leisure, whilst shopping centres continue to underperform as they struggle with a weak entertainment and leisure offer alongside an increasing caution amongst consumers around retail spend.”
Overall footfall in London was down 0.6 per cent, while the rest of the country showed a mixed picture. Footfall was up in Wales, Eastern England, Scotland, and the East Midlands. Northern Ireland saw the biggest annual change in footfall, with a decline of 4.1 per cent.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, attacked the rise in business rates as unhelpful at a crisis time for shops: “A business tax system that continues to curtail investment in bricks and mortar is at odds with an industry that desperately needs to innovate in order to attract cautious shoppers into their stores.”