Early summer rain impacts footfall
Figures released by the British Retail Consortium have revealed that footfall in the three months to July was 2.3% lower than a year ago and worse than the 2% fall seen in the previous quarter, as wet weather led to a decline in shopper numbers.
The BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found that footfall decreased in all types of shopping location. High streets saw a 5.5% fall, while out-of-town retail locations and shopping centres experienced falls of 1.2% and 0.4% respectively.
The hardest-hit locations in the past three months were Greater London, down 8.9%, Scotland, down 8.2%, and the East, down 7.3%.
The BRC said that Northern Ireland and Wales were the only regions to show rises in footfall with increases of 6.2% and 4%. The South East and the North & Yorkshire experienced the smallest declines at 0.5% and 0.9% respectively.
The Monitor revealed that the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.4% in the month (high streets and shopping centres), up from 11.2% in July 2011 when the survey began.
Northern Ireland, Wales, and the North & Yorkshire recorded the highest vacancy rates at 18.5%, 15.3% and 13% respectively.
Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium director general, explained: "Some of the wettest weather on record drove a sharp decline in shopper numbers over the quarter. July saw the biggest drop in overall footfall with high streets suffering the most. Apart from the Christmas boost in December, high street footfall has now been down for 18 months driven by jobs fears and falling disposable incomes.
"In most parts of the UK, it's a continuing story of people being short of money, reluctant or unable to spend, resulting in consistently high levels of empty shops.
"There was little sign of a general Jubilee bounce though the wettest June on record did produce the only month in the quarter when shopping centre footfall rose as people avoided going outside.
Retailers will be hoping the Olympics had a more positive impact. They will be reflected in the next quarter's survey."
Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, added: "Throughout April to July the high street experienced a more dramatic footfall drop compared to shopping centres and out of town locations, with the gap widening since the same quarter in 2011.
"Out of town retail locations have also shown more resilience – they are more convenient to access by car, provide cheaper car parking, and again consumers can avoid venturing outside in the rain. However, despite the 2.3% footfall drop, and that this statistic has worsened from a drop of 1.0% in the same quarter last year – vacancies have only risen marginally from July 2011 (from 11.2% to 11.4%), which shows that UK town centres are retaining the quality of their offering."
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