Autumn rain keeps shoppers at bay, BRC-Springboard Footfall Index shows

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The UK Footfall decline of 3.2% year on year was steeper than September and both the 3- month and 12-month averages, according to the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall Index covering the four weeks 29 September – 26 October 2019.

On the High Street, Footfall saw a far steeper rate of decline than September, at 4.9%. This was steeper than the three-month average decline of 2.8%.

Retail Park Footfall declined for the first time in 5 months, with -0.5%. This was below the 3- month average of 0.2%.

Shopping Centre Footfall declined by 2.4% in October, which was a slight improvement on the 3-month average of 2.6%.

The UK Vacancy rate improved to 10.0% in October, from 10.3% in July.

Helen Dickinson, chief-executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “High streets were hit hardest in October, with the wet and wintery weather putting off many consumers from venturing out to the shops.

“Weak consumer demand and Brexit uncertainty have both impacted sales in recent months, and this could be further affected by the imminent election campaigning. Nonetheless, retailers will be hoping for footfall to pick up as they enter the all-important Golden Quarter.

“There is some cause for optimism, with the vacancy rate decreasing slightly, buoyed by strong results in London which saw vacancies fall by almost a third.

“The election offers an opportunity for a future Government to outline how it would support an industry that pays over £17 billion in tax every year and employs over three million people. With retail accounting for 5% of the economy yet paying 10% of all business taxes and 25% of business rates, it is clear there is room for improvement. The next Government should follow the Treasury Select Committee’s advice and scrap downwards transition, which takes money from retailers and uses it to subsidise other industries.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The drop in footfall of -3.2% was the worst result for October in seven years. Whilst it can’t be regarded as a purely pre Brexit breakdown as the weather also played a part, the prevailing political uncertainty must be having a considerable impact on activity given the low level of consumer confidence.

“When confidence is low it doesn’t take much to deter shoppers and the torrential rain in the last week of the month hit footfall particularly hard, resulting in a drop over those seven days of -6.2%. All three destination types – high streets, shopping centres and retail parks – were impacted by a much greater drop in the last week of the month than in the previous three.

“But by far the worst result came from high streets where footfall declined by -7.4%, which is not unexpected given their exposure to the elements. Indeed, the significant impact on high streets was felt across the board geographically, with footfall declining in all but one area and in four areas (Greater London, the South East, North & Yorkshire and Wales) the drop was in excess of -5%.

“A sliver of good news is that the UK vacancy rate actually improved slightly in October from July (10% from 10.3%) which reflects the improvement in the three month average from -2.8% in July to -2% in October. However, we must be mindful about reading too much into this as it is a trend that has been present in previous years as the number of pop up shops and temporary lets increase in the run up to Halloween and Christmas. The strong vacancy result in London versus other parts of the UK is not unusual and has often been the case, as it is London – with its far higher footfall volumes – that is so often the incubator for new retail concepts and fledgling bricks and mortar businesses.”