Footfall in January was 1.6% higher than a year ago, up on the 2.4% fall in December, according to the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor.
This is the best footfall performance since December 2011, reflecting the positive figures of the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
High streets reported the only fall, down 0.6%, substantially up from their 3.7% fall in December.
Footfall in out-of-town locations improved substantially to a 5.7% increase and shopping centres reported an increase of 2.4%.
Greater London reported the greatest increase in regional footfall, up 3.2% year-on-year. The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.0% in January 2014, a decrease from October’s rate of 11.0%, researchers found.
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “More shoppers were out and about in January, with a solid 1.6% in overall footfall across the country. It’s good news for retailers and it helps to explain the rise in sales we reported earlier in the month, demonstrating that UK shoppers were enthusiastically checking out the promotions available during the sales season.
“Out-of-town retail parks and shopping centres did particularly well this month, up 5.7% and 2.4% respectively. The high street performed a little worse, with numbers of shoppers dropping slightly, by 0.6%.
“The number of vacant shop units across the country remains high. However, it is encouraging to see that it’s marginally down at 11.0 per cent. Empty shops hurt local economies, and there still a need to reduce the costs of operating property by reforming the business rates system.”
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: “’After such a challenging Christmas trading period, it is encouraging to see that footfall in our retail destinations increased annually in January by 1.6%. Not only is this the largest increase since December 2011 (which was in part a function of the dreadful weather in December 2010) but the first annual rise in footfall since July 2013.
‘’This result demonstrates that whilst the growth of online retailing continues apace, retail destinations remain attractive to shoppers and that retailers’ approach in delivering a multichannel offer is the right one. At the same time, however, all of the annual increase in footfall was driven by visits to shopping centres and particularly to retail parks, rather than to high streets, although this is likely to be a combination of the adverse impact of the ongoing rain on visits to external environments and the demand for furniture which drives visits to retail parks and supported January’s strong sales results.
‘’Despite the tough trading conditions in retail locations over the second half of 2013, the drop in the vacancy rate from 11.1% to 11.0% indicates a degree of optimism about future trading conditions.’’