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Shoppers vote with their feet in tough month for UK retail

British retailers have suffered another blow after it was revealed that the number of people going into high street shops and shopping centres fell during August.

According to new figures from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard, footfall in August was 1.6 per cent lower than a year ago and down from the 1.1 per cent fall in July. This was also below the three month average of -1.4 per cent.

Both high streets and shopping centres reported declines, falling 2.3 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively. Footfall in retail park locations increased 1.7 per cent year on year but this still marked the slowest increase since May this year and significantly below the three-month average of 2.5 per cent.

The poor performance was reflected throughout the country with nine regions reporting a decline in footfall. The east Midlands was the only region to report positive footfall growth up a marginal 0.04 per cent.

The continued decline in footfall in shopping centres and on the high street is disappointing, but not surprising. The fact that the number of visitors to retail parks has dipped below the three month average is also a clear sign of a lack-lustre August. However, it is worth noting that these figures do not take into account the last two days of August, the Sunday and bank holiday Monday, which will, hopefully, add some cheer to the numbers in September,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC director general.

These numbers are a clear demonstration of the continued pressures the UK retail industry is facing. We know that retailers are steadily maintaining sales but at lower prices and to fewer people visiting physical stores. As we start the long march to Christmas, retailers will want to see an increase in shopper numbers in all store locations. Most will also be hoping for a decrease in any financial or regulatory burdens heading their way from government. These only make the job of getting the right products to UK consumers at the right price harder at a time when the hurdles to running a successful retail business are high enough.

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Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, added: It is clear that high streets and shopping centres are under increasing pressure once again August was the third month in a row in which footfall in high streets dropped by more than 2 per cent, and this has been the case in shopping centres for the past five months. 

“However, this is likely to be just a short term hiatus, as August this year only included the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend when footfall increased by three per cent compared with a rise of more than six per cent over the Sunday and Monday. So the probability is that in September UK footfall will bounce back to at least equal the more modest 0.9 per cent drop recorded in September last year.


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