Weak footfall as summer ends for UK retailers

AUGUST saw the lowest level of activity in stores since March, with footfall 0.9 per cent below the same month in 2012, which benefited from the boost of the Olympics.

According to figures released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard, the number of shoppers was down by 0.9 per cent on the previous year, but unchanged in comparison to the three months between June and August in 2012.

Footfall in both June and July was positive, but last month’s disappointing figures raise questions over whether robust economic growth in the second quarter is reaching retailers.

Only Yorkshire and the north of England saw any improvement between August 2012 and last month, with a meagre 0.1 per cent boost to footfall. Every other region in the UK saw a decline, with Wales and the south west of England hit hardest.

High street footfall dropped by 0.6 per cent, but recorded a better performance than shopping centres, where the number of consumers slumped by 2.2 per cent. Out of town shopping appeared undamaged over the year, with footfall flat.

Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, commented: “All in all, these figures need to be taken in tandem with the recent rosier economic news, including a good run of sales growth and many of us starting to feel more positive about the economy.”

“A small dip in one month shouldn’t take the shine off the tentative signs of improving customer confidence hinted at in recent times,” she added.

Springboard’s Diane Wehrle agreed that the picture was not as bad as a dip in footfall suggested: “Given the increase in sales in August, the lack of uplift in footfall indicates that the number of customers visiting our retail locations is remaining steady in overall terms but they are spending more.

“Results for August indicate an increasing degree of stability in the performance of retail locations.”