Footfall in February was only 0.5% lower than a year ago, an improvement on the 1.2% fall in January, according to the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor.
This is above the three-month average of -0.8% and best overall footfall performance since May 2014.
Shopping Centres reported the largest decline, falling 1.5%, while high streets experienced a 0.6% decline in footfall, up on the 1.6% fall in January.
Footfall in out-of-town locations fared the best with a 1.0% increase year-on-year.
Four regions and countries reported footfall lower than a year ago, with Wales and Greater London reporting the greatest declines.
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: ‘‘February largely saw good news overall with high footfall compared to the three month average, which was the best performance since May 2014. This was helped by a notable slowdown in a decline of high street footfall, as well as out of town strength.
‘‘Although it’s usually traditional to see us putting our feet up after the Christmas rush and January sales this doesn’t seem to be the case for out of town shopping. We are still flocking for those big ticket items with an increase in footfall by one per cent.
‘‘Shopping centres saw a predictable decline for this time of year and retailers will be preparing for increased footfall when consumers have recovered from taking advantage of all the great Black Friday, Christmas and January offerings.’’
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: “It is gratifying that finally there is some good news for retail locations, as the 0.5% drop in footfall across the UK in February is the best result since May 2014 and a significant improvement on the 2.9% fall recorded in February 2014. And whilst retail parks continue to be the only retail environment that is consistently recording an increase in customer activity, it is positive that the decline in footfall in both high streets and shopping centres slowed in February. High streets performed particularly strongly given the structural change in retailing that has led to a long term decline in high street footfall, with February recording the most favourable result for the past five months.
“As importantly, in contrast to February 2014, footfall in high streets and shopping centres strengthened by a significant margin – a 5.3% drop in high street footfall in February 2014 has reduced to a marginal decline of just 0.6%; and in shopping centres a decline of 1.5% this February compares favourably to 2.4% fall in February last year.
“Furthermore the positive footfall performance is more widely spread across the UK than in previous months, with six of the 10 areas and nations of the UK recording positive growth in February. This indicates a retail landscape that is broadening geographically in strength and appeal, particularly as footfall in Greater London – so long the focus for retail activity – has declined in all but two months since January 2014.”
Country and region footfall analysis
Four regions in England reported positive footfall growth in February – East (3.0%), South East (2.9%), East Midlands (2.0%) and South West (0.9%).
Eight out of 10 regions and nations of the UK showed an improvement in footfall in February, with only Greater London and the West Midlands reporting a worsening picture. Since January 2014, footfall in Greater London has declined in all but one month (March 2014), reporting footfall above the UK average only four times during this period.
Scotland and Northern Ireland both reported footfall significantly above the UK average, up 1.2% and 1.3% respectively. Footfall in Wales remained negative but showed a marked improvement in February, rising to -2.3% from -4.6% in January.