Retail industry analysts have cautiously welcomed a new report that shows an increase in footfall for the month of August.
According to the latest Footfall and Vacancies Monitor – compiled by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard and covering the four week period of July 31 to August 27 – footfall in August was up by 0.1 per cent compared to the 1.6 per cent drop a year ago.
This figure was also an improvement on the 0.4 per cent fall in July this year and is the second time in four months that footfall has risen.
High street locations experienced a 1.1 per cent uptick in footfall, while retail parks had a 0.4 per cent increase.
However, footfall in shopping centres was down by 1.9 per cent, the seventh consecutive month of falling shopper numbers.
In terms regions surveyed by the BRC and Springboard, six of the 10 had a rise in footfall for August, all reporting growth rates above the overall UK average.
Northern Ireland footfall rose 2.5 per cent, while Wales’ footfall went up by 1.8 per cent.
On the other hand, the West and East Midlands, North and Yorkshire and South East witnessed footfall declines.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said because it’s only the third time this year that overall footfall had increased, retailers would have “some cheer” but would be “cautiously optimistic for the months ahead”.
“High streets were the real winner in terms of the destinations we were favouring this month,” she said.
“They saw footfall rise a healthy 1.1 per cent. This compares with a fall in retail sales for the same period.
This suggests that people are being drawn to the high streets for reasons other than to shop – perhaps because many are now doing a better job of providing a mixed offer and are no longer solely retail destinations.
“Improving this model should bode well for the longer term survival of the British high street.”
Springboard’s insights director Diane Wehrle said August’s figures were a “modest uplift” after two months of declining footfall.
“Driving the overall rise on the high street is an increase in footfall post 5pm, which highlights the growing evening economy based on leisure activities – hospitality, food and beverage trips – and is a result of a markedly improved and expanded offering by shopping destinations,” she said.
“Only in retail parks did footfall during daytime trading hours improve.
“August saw an influx of tourists and a return of the staycation in the UK as 5.1 million Brits decided to holiday at home over the bank holiday weekend.
“Whilst increased footfall didn’t translate to sales for many, coastal towns saw an improvement of -2.2 per cent in July and August vs -4 per cent in July /August 2015 and many retailers will be hoping that the tourism boom continues on the high street as we head into the autumn.”