London's West End wins big on Easter shopping splurge

Helen Cahill
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London 2012 - UK Landmarks
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London's retailers have benefited from an Easter boost as tourists thronged to the capital to spend in April.

The weak pound fuelled tourism in London's West End, with footfall rising by 2.7 per cent year-on-year in the capital's central shopping district in April, according to figures from retail benchmarking firm Springboard and the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

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Meanwhile, so-called "staycations" boosted Easter footfall in coastal and historic towns by 5.1 per cent and 7.9 per cent respectively.

Across UK high streets as a whole, footfall increased 2.3 per cent year-on-year, the third month in a row of rising shopper numbers.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: "As has been the trend for some months now, high streets across most of the UK attracted the largest increase in visitors out of all shopping destinations.

"This translated into good news for stores too, which saw their fastest annual sales growth since January last year."

Separate BRC figures showed that in April, UK retail sales grew 5.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis as compared to the same month a year before.

However, the footfall figures reflected the ongoing change in consumer spending towards pubs and restaurants over retail.

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"The underlying structural shift towards leisure-focussed trips meant that while high street footfall rose 1.9 per cent during retail trading house, trips to high streets after 5pm increased by more than three per cent," said Daine Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard.

And, overall consumer spending is expected to become increasing pressurised in the coming months as inflation starts to bite.

Consumer price inflation is predicted to have shot to 2.7 per cent in April, up from 2.3 per cent in March and February, bringing it to its highest level since September 2013.

The sudden rise in inflation, which will be announced on Tuesday, can partly be explained by the late timing of Easter this year.

"In particular, prices for air and sea transport, package holidays and hotels rise around Easter, so these increased in March 2016 but largely did not rise until April this year," said Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Markit.

"This weighed down on the inflation rate in March but will have lifted it in April."