Fewer shoppers in April despite Easter weekend

BRITISH retailers have reported a shock drop in the number of shoppers heading into stores this April, with figures suggesting lower foot traffic despite the effect of a late Easter.

Figures released this morning by Springboard and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that footfall dropped 0.1 per cent last month, when compared to April last year.

The decline is particularly surprising since the Easter weekend, which usually drives customers into shops, fell in April this year instead of in March during 2013.

High street stores were particularly hard-hit once again, with footfall down 1.4 per cent, after a 2.6 per cent drop in March. Only out-of-town stores saw higher traffic than 12 months earlier, with a four per cent increase.

London’s shops saw the largest decline in traffic, leading the country with a decline of 3.4 per cent. But footfall has risen considerably in Northern Ireland, up 12.8 per cent from April last year. The region saw the fastest growth in the whole of the UK.

The news comes a week after figures also produced by the BRC suggested strong growth in spending at physical stores last month, with an increase of 5.7 per cent.

And despite the drop in the number of shoppers, more of the UK’s empty retail spaces are being filled. According to Springboard and the BRC, the vacancy rate has dropped to 10.6 per cent from 11 per cent at the start of the year.

There has been a clear decline following the resurgence in consumer spending, with the proportion of shops left empty down from 11.9 per cent in April last year. London’s vacancy rate is now just six per cent.

“The decline in the vacancy rate is heartening; however every tenth shop still remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for an overhaul of the business rates system, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing,” said Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC.