Better weather puts spring in high street footfall, latest figures reveal

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Better weather has boosted footfall on the high street during the five weeks from 24 February to 30 March, according to the latest BRC-Springboard figures.

  • Footfall increased in March, at 1.4%, compared to the previous year when it fell by 6.0%.
  • On a three-month basis, footfall dropped by 0.3%. The six and twelve–month averages are both at -1.4%.
  • High Street footfall increased by 2.5%, against a decline of 8.6% in March 2018. This was above the three-month average growth of 0.2%.
  • Retail Park footfall increased by 1.5%, in contrast to March 2018 when footfall decreased by 1.8%. This was above the three-month average growth of 0.2%.
  • Shopping Centre footfall fell by 1.0%, against a decline of 4.8% in March 2018, now the 24th month of consecutive decline. This was above the three-month average of -1.7%.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “At first sight the year on year rise in footfall of +1.4% 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. 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% should be regarded as an exceptional circumstance relating to a dramatic slump in footfall in March 2018 of -6%. 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 focussed on prudence. This becomes very obvious when looking at footfall in each week; with the month being bookended by two strong weeks while footfall plunged in the middle three weeks. The most significant uplift this year occurred in the first week of the month when footfall rose by +17.6% against the same week in 2018, when Beast from the East hit the UK causing footfall to drop by -16.6%. The second positive week – in the last week of the month – contrasts with the Good Friday/Easter Saturday week last year when the UK was once again beset by poor weather which caused footfall to drop by -1.3%, hence a rise of +1.2% in the same week this year.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “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. 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. Furthermore, Government can support this transformation by reforming the outdated business system which holds back firms from investing in physical space.”