Latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) indicate that year-on-year footfall in March decreased by 6.0 per cent, a substantial decline compared to the positive rate of 1.3 per cent seen for March 2017 and the steepest year on year fall since the end of 2010.
The 12-month average is -1.4 per cent, while there was no growth in footfall for any UK regions – the most notable declines (year-on-year) were seen in Greater London (-7.5 per cent), South East (-6.5 per cent) and in the East Midlands (-5.6 per cent).
Growth fell in all shopping destinations too – High Streets saw a decline of 8.6 per cent, retail parks of 1.8 per cent and shopping centres of 4.8 per cent.
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Whilst the prolonged period of bad weather has had an impact on shoppers visiting the high street, we are seeing a longer term trend of reduced footfall which highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop. The retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this. Policy-makers must also play their part with a vision for a modern business taxation system which reflects this new environment.”
Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said: “The severe weather put paid to any glimmer of hope for an uplift in shopper activity in March. Hitting the week following the pay day weekend was the worst timing possible as it meant that shoppers who had available budget deferred trips. A proportion of this was made up over Easter, with footfall in shopping centres and retail parks rising from last Easter but this was more than offset by the impact of the heavy rain on high streets. Indeed, throughout the month we were able to track the impact on footfall each day as adverse weather moved across the UK
“Comparing the weekly trend with annual change in footfall enables us to see the fundamentals underlying shopper activity. So whilst footfall was hit hard in the first week of the month, declining by -17.1% from the week before, it bounced back, rising by +25.5% in the second week and by an average of +2.3% over the month, demonstrating that deferred trips were reinstated when the weather improved.
“But the bounce back was based on a reduced shopper pool compared with last year, with the significant annual decline of -6% over the month demonstrating that there is reduced shopper activity this year than in 2017. This is undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints attached to current price inflation and concern for the future, exacerbated by the underlying structural shift in consumer habits away from purely transaction based activity towards activity with a leisure focus.”