UK footfall fell 5.2 per cent in March compared with a year earlier as ongoing cold weather and declining consumer confidence saw shoppers avoid stores, according to data released today.
Representing the weakest performance since April last year, footfall dropped across all areas with high streets suffering most as footfall decreased seven per cent on the same period in 2012, the lowest level since last July.
Out of town locations saw footfall drop 4.2 per cent over the month and shopping centres saw a fall of 2.4 per cent, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Footfall Monitor.
Helen Dickinson, Director General of the BRC, explained that, while footfall rose over the Easter weekend, this was not enough to counter the overall decrease across the month.
She added: “High streets were hit the hardest by the cold snap, as many of us favoured shopping under shelter rather than braving the elements.
“In February, high streets had been the standout performer, but March saw footfall growth slumping back to subzero territory – high streets’ worst result since July 2012.
“It’s not all bad news: our March sales figures were fairly strong, even if you strip out the data for the Easter weekend which fell earlier this year than in 2012.
“This suggests that, when people did venture out, they bought things, although the weather brought mixed fortunes for different categories as food did well but Spring and Summer fashions fared badly.
“With temperatures finally showing some signs of lifting, retailers will be hoping that demand also starts to heat up for seasonal ranges and Spring shopping trips.”
UK retail sales values grew 1.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis last month, boosted by the early fall of Easter though nonetheless represented an encouraging improvement for the sector.
However, all seven regions in England saw a decline in footfall over the period, as the East Midlands led the way with an 8.1 per cent decrease, followed by the South West and the North & Yorkshire which saw a seven per cent and six per cent fall respectively, all below the UK average.
On the high street, only one in five towns recorded positive results and those that did see a rise reported an average jump of 6.9 per cent compared with the 11.4 per cent average decline among those whose footfall decreased from March last year.
Retail Insights Director at Springboard Diana Wherle said of the figures: “Despite high streets seeing a strong performance in February, predictably the bad weather, plus the Budget and media attention given to the reform to the benefit system have hit consumer confidence.
“It’s key to bear in mind that March 2013 was much colder than in 2012, where most of the UK experienced unseasonable soaring temperatures, whereas rain, snow and bitter cold further encouraged shoppers to stay at home.
“The final week of the month did yield some positive results, with retail park footfall significantly bolstered, up 7.9 per cent against the previous week, with home-owners taking advantage of the long Easter bank holiday to visit DIY out-of-town outlets.”