Retail footfall drops 0.1% in April
Retail footfall edged down 0.1% year-on-year in April with high streets seeing the largest decline.
The figures released by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard show that out-of-town locations fared best with footfall rising 4% compared to April 2013 as they benefited from a pick-up in sales of furniture, DIY and gardening products due to a stronger housing market. Meanwhile high streets saw a 1.4% decline while shopping centre footfall dropped by 0.9%.
The 0.1% overall decline compares to a year-on-year rise of 1.8% in March.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: ““Hopefully the flat footfall growth witnessed in April will prove short-lived, coming as it does after a favourable expansion the month before.
“As we saw with our retail sales data released last week, purchases of big ticket items such as furniture, gardening, DIY and materials for revamping the home performed well, off the back of a pick-up in the housing market. Out of town retail locations have directly benefited as a result, whilst footfall on our high streets has dipped reflecting weaker sales of clothing, footwear and beauty products.”
Looking across the UK, Northern Ireland reported the biggest increase in regional footfall, up 12.8% year-on-year, followed by Scotland with a rise of 5.2%. The biggest drops were seen in Greater London and the East Midlands where footfall fell by 3.4% and 3.2% respectively.
The BRC figures also show that the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.6% in April 2014, a decrease from January's rate of 11%.
Dickinson added: "The decline in the vacancy rate is heartening; however every tenth shop still remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for an overhaul of the business rates system, which would increase retailers' confidence about investing in property, create more jobs and help revive high streets."
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