March delivered sharpest drop in shopper footfall for eight years

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Shopper footfall fell six per cent in March, proving to be the steepest year-on-year drop since the end of 2010.

The latest results published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in its Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor this morning found a substantial decline in footfall for the five weeks to March 31. This compares to an average drop of just 1.4 per cent in 2017.

Greater London was hit hardest, with footfall down 7.5 per cent, with the South East down 6.5 per cent and the East Midlands dropping 5.6 per cent.

Overall, there was no growth in footfall in any UK region, and footfall growth fell in all destinations: high streets saw a decline of 8.6 per cent, retail parks down 1.8 per cent and shopping centres dropping 4.8 per cent.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson blamed more than just the weather for the results, stating, “whilst the prolonged period of bad weather has had an impact on shoppers visiting the high street, we are seeing a longer term trend of reduced footfall which highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop.

She added that “the retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this.

“Policy-makers must also play their part with a vision for a modern business taxation system which reflects this new environment.”

Similarly, Springboard director Diana Wehrle said “comparing the weekly trend with annual change in footfall enables us to see the fundamentals underlying shopper activity.

“So whilst footfall was hit hard in the first week of the month, declining by -17.1% from the week before, it bounced back, rising by +25.5% in the second week and by an average of +2.3% over the month, demonstrating that deferred trips were reinstated when the weather improved.”

“But the bounce back was based on a reduced shopper pool compared with last year, with the significant annual decline of -6% over the month demonstrating that there is reduced shopper activity this year than in 2017,” Wehrle added.

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