Dip in footfall underlines importance of business rates reform, says BRC Springboard Monitor

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Footfall in February was 2.9% lower than a year ago, down on the 1.6% rise in January and below the three-month average of -1.1%, according to the BRC Springboard Footfall Monitor for Feburary 2014.

High streets reported the greatest fall, down 5.3%, which is the largest drop since March 2013. On a three-month basis reported a drop in footfall of 3.0%, 

Footfall in out-of-town locations experienced a rise 2.3% while shopping centres fell by 2.4%.

All regions and countries with the exception of Greater London (-2.0%), East Midlands (-2.2%) and North & Yorkshire (-2.3%) reported footfall above the UK average of (-2.9%).
  
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “After the increase in UK shoppers we saw last month, we have seen a disappointing, but understandable, drop back in February. This is in-line with the low levels of growth we saw in our sales figures earlier this month.
 
“Our data is now building up a rich picture of how retailers created an exceptional and successful promotional period this January, but having taken advantage of those deals, some consumers have taken a little bit of a pause in their shopping in February.
 
“Overall the numbers of shoppers are down 2.9%. The high street has seen the most challenging conditions, with footfall down 5.3% on last year. This underlines how important it is we keep our focus on reform of business rates to keep costs down. Reform will help high street retailers invest in their offer and attract more people out to the shops, supporting local jobs and benefiting the wider economy.”
  
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: ‘’With a drop in footfall of 2.9%, it is clear that the exceptionally rainy weather in February impacted on our retail destinations, particularly as the fall of 5.3% in high streets – which are the most exposed to the elements – exceeded the 2.4% fall in shopping centres that benefit from a sheltered environment.  The convenience of out of town locations – with parking that is easily accessible to the shops – meant that footfall increased by 2.3%.
 
‘’For high streets the result is in sharp contrast to February 2013 when footfall increased by 2.7%, and it is also the worst result for high streets since the 7.0% drop recorded in March 2013. Despite this, however, gains early on over the last year meant that high streets are on par with shopping centres over the last 12 months with a drop of 1.9% each. The star undoubtedly is out of town, where footfall rose over the 12 months to end of March by 0.1%.’’
 
Country and region footfall analysis
 
All seven regions in England reported a decline in footfall. Three regions in England reported footfall above the UK average – The North & Yorkshire (-2.3%), East Midlands (-2.2%) and Greater London (-2.0%).
 
Northern Ireland has experienced its seventh consecutive drop with footfall down 5.1% from a 2.0% drop in January. Scotland also experienced a drop in footfall at 4.1%, while Wales reported a footfall decline of 8.8%, the steepest decline for footfall since the weighted series began in December 2012.