Retail footfall down 4.6% in January
This is the weakest footfall figure since April 2012 when shopper numbers declined by 6.9%.
Figures from the British Retail Consortium/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor reveal that out-of-town locations saw the greatest percentage fall in numbers in the month at 7.2%, followed by shopping centres at 5.2% and high streets at 3.3%.
Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: "This steep drop in footfall is obviously a cause for concern but, as our sales figures showed last week, fewer shoppers on the streets doesn't seem to have dented sales growth in January. The mid-month snow took its toll on numbers of people out braving the elements, especially when making journeys to out-of-town retail parks, but it seems that many of us stayed one step ahead of the big chill and bought more on fewer shopping trips."
Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, added: "What is unusual – particularly in the winter – is that the high street fared better than shopping centres which recorded a decline in footfall of -5.2%. One possible reason for this is the greater diversity of high streets which provide a wide ranging offer and a greater representation of independents."
The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.9% in January 2013, down from 11.3% in October 2012.
Wehrle said: "The key finding here is that vacancies in particular regions have increased significantly over the past three months, e.g. an increase from 15.1% to 17% in Wales which may be a reflection of the impact of the recent closure of key high street names.
"The premise that high vacancy rates tend to perpetuate low footfall appears to hold true with a decline in footfall of -10.1% in Wales alongside an increase in a vacancy rate of 1.9% from October compared with an increase in footfall in the West Midlands of 5.3 percentage points alongside a vacancy rate that has fallen over the last three months by 0.7%."
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