High street footfall continues to battle wrath of “no splurge” culture

Shop price inflation
// High street footfall improves on back of weak annual comparisons
// Shoppers present in stores but reluctant to make purchases
// Shopping centres hit hardest, struck with 4.8% fall in footfall

Retailers may have spotted more shoppers on the streets, but new BRC figures indicate that a so-called “no splurge” culture continued into March.

The latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor saw footfall up 1.4 per cent in March, albeit on a weak comparison when it fell by six per cent in the same period last year.

On a three month basis, footfall fell 0.3 per cent, resulting in a 1.4 per cent decline for six and 12 month averages.

High street footfall rose 2.5 per cent on the back of a 8.6 per cent drop in March, representing more signs of a “no splurge” culture, with shoppers keen to visit stores, but reluctant to make purchases.

“At first sight the year on year rise in footfall of 1.4 per cent in March appears to signify a reverse in trend from the previous two years, when footfall dropped in all but two of the past 22 months,” Springboard marketing and insights director Diana Wehrle said. 

“However, whilst news of an improvement in footfall would be most welcome, it is simply not the case and instead the rise of 1.4 per cent should be regarded as an exceptional circumstance relating to a dramatic slump in footfall in March 2018 of six per cent.

“Indeed, this was by far the worst monthly result of the year and adversely influenced the outcome for footfall in 2018 as a whole.

“The result clearly indicates that we continue to be in the midst of a no splurge culture; with consumer confidence continuing to languish, shoppers are clearly focused on prudence.”

Looking out at the wider retail industry, footfall rose 1.5 per cent at retail parks, a small rise on March 2018’s drop of 1.8 per cent. 

Shopping centre footfall fell by one per cent after a 4.8 per cent decrease in March 2018.

“Retailers will be relieved to see footfall up from last year though this is was heavily influenced by the weather: while shoppers in 2018 were contending with the ‘Beast from the East’, this March has been mild by comparison,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Unfortunately, the higher footfall has not translated into higher spending. The data also showed that shopping centres continue to suffer, with 24 consecutive months of decline in footfall.

“It is vital that all different shopping locations are fit for the future, offering the mix of retail and experience-led opportunities that generate the necessary footfall to succeed.”

The BRC boss went on to implore the government to aid retailers burdened by high business rates for bricks and mortar stores.

“[The] government can support this transformation by reforming the outdated business system which holds back firms from investing in physical space.”

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