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Declining trend in UK footfall continues

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Retail footfall on the UK high street declined by 3.5 per cent year-on year in May, according to figures released today.

Automated customer counting firm Springboard found in its National High Street Index that country-wide high street activity had fallen in the month with smaller regional cities seeing a reduction of 1.3 per cent in shopper numbers, although this compared with a 5.4 per cent decrease reported for May 2011.

Shoppers appear to be increasing spend in large city centres however, as data revealed the strongest month-on-month footfall growth in Manchester, up 13.8 per cent followed by Leeds and Cardiff, which saw a 9.4 and 6.7 per cent increase respectively.

Diane Wehrle, Research Director at Springboard, commented: “It’s encouraging to see footfall to regional cities bouncing back compared to last year’s results.

“Throughout the majority of last year the footfall index showed that major cities were not performing well until November when numbers grew as the festive shopping season approached.

“Since then footfall to these cities has continued to gain momentum as city centre teams work harder to attract shoppers.”

A bout of hot weather along with initiatives such as free parking and longer opening hours helped encourage consumers, with Wales and the North of England seeing a 6.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent rise respectively.

Wehrle explained: “Town centre teams that have implemented various successful schemes across the UK include, Newcastle’s ‘Alive after Five’ program, which offers permanent late night shopping and free parking, as well as Liverpool’s ‘Summer of Love’ campaign to promote live culture and sport - featuring dozens of events in the heart of Liverpool city centre.”

Retailers will now be hoping that the Jubilee celebrations of recent days will have given a boost to retail stores around the company, as last week’s negative results from research company Ipsos’s Retail Traffic Index (RTI) further highlighted the need for an improvement.

Monitoring the volume of shoppers in non-food stores across the UK, the RTI confirmed further footfall lows for last month, with shopper numbers down by 7.5 per cent against May last year, and down 3.3 per cent on last month.

However, results also reveal that bank holidays have provided a desperately needed boost, as footfall over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend improved marginally, down only 2.9 per cent on the equivalent period in 2011.

Tim Denison, Head of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, feels such results offer a glimmer of hope to the sector.

“After the bank holiday week and Jubilee celebrations, high street retailers will be pinning their hopes on sporting events such as the Games and Euro 2012 football tournament,” he said.

“If these can help to lift the nation’s spirits, then shopper numbers could be swelled. If this happens, high street retailing in the UK will be in a far better position in a couple of months than it is right now.”

Published on Wednesday 06 June by Editorial Assistant

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