Is the death of the high street in sight?

Physical retail spaces across the UK are suffering according to the latest footfall survey from the British Retail Consortium. Despite an increase in the number of town centre shops, traffic on the high street has declined.

BRC and Springboard found a 2.2% decline in traffic while the number of people frequenting shopping centres has dropped by 2.5%.

A possible factor for the steady fall of shoppers in physical spaces is the rise of online delivery services as well as many high street shops also having their own internet based stores. As a result, more and more regular customers have converted to buying online.

John Munro, External Affairs Advisor at the BRC commented on the factors leaving footfall in decline. “The way that we shop has changed. It‘s not only internet shopping, but it certainly has a lot to do with it; as people are now shopping in different ways. Whereas before people browsed at the shops, they are now researching online before they go shopping, and then going out to directly purchase” he said.  

Helen Dickinson, Director General of the BRC, said: “The continued popularity of retail parks will cheer retailers who have invested in these locations – a footfall increase of 3.1% is the highest we‘ve seen since May 2014.”

It has been reported that there are now more retail outlets in town centres since 2011, with the vacancy rate standing at just 9.8%, 0.3% lower than last year.

“The vacancy rate has remained stubbornly high – the dip below 10% for the first time may be indicative of successful attempts to reshape Britain‘s high streets in some locations,” Dickinson said.

“No matter how successful high streets are in re-inventing themselves, if they can‘t deliver increased footfall we could easily see vacancy rates climbing again,” she said.

While the majority of the UK were found to be in decline, the only region to report positive footfall growth was Greater London. Northern Ireland and Wales especially struggled over the past year, experiencing 4.5% and 4.4% footfall declines.

One positive note for retailers was the success of retailers which proved to be performing significantly better than last year. 

Talya Misiri


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