Shops closing shutters as custom drops

FEWER Britons are going shopping, triggering the closure of an increasing number of stores, new figures show today.

There was a one per cent drop in footfall – the number of people visiting shops – between May and July compared with the same period last year.

The figures from the British Retail Consortium and analysts Springboard highlight the fragile state of consumer demand.

On the high street footfall fell by 1.6 per cent while at out of town shopping areas the fall was 1.9 per cent. At shopping centres like Westfield, however, footfall edged up by 0.6 per cent.

Greater London was one of the only areas across the UK to see a rise in shoppers, with a 1.6 per cent lift.

Meanwhile the vacancy rate for UK town centre shop premises is now 11.2 per cent as companies struggle to pay their rents.

The likes of Oddbins, Habitat and Jane Norman have been forced to permanently pull down the shutters on most of their shops in the tough climate.

Northern Ireland’s vacancy rate is above 17 per cent, while the figure for Wales and North Yorkshire was over 13 per cent.

Last week official figures showed that retail sales had only risen by 0.2 per cent in July compared with the previous month. The below-forecast number was fuelled by rising inflation which has taken its toll on household budgets, according to economists.
Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “In July, all types of shopping locations saw reduced footfall year-on-year and that was before the effect of this month’s disturbances in England.

“Fewer people are shopping because households are facing high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about future job prospects.”