Footfall boost for bricks-and-mortar retailers, BRC Springboard finds
(ShareCast News) - UK retailers enjoyed greater footfall in their shops in April, helped by a later Easter and the weak pound boosting tourism and staycation holidays.
Research by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard found footfall in April grew 1.6% on the same month in the previous year.
This was well above the three-month average of 0.7 per cent, which is the first positive three-month average since May 2014, and the highest since February 2012.
High streets saw the best of the footfall, up 2.3% in the month compared to a three-month average of 1.4%, while retail park shops saw growth of 2.7% versus a three-month average of 0.9%.
Shopping centre footfall fell by 0.6%, slightly better than the average decline for the last three months of -0.9%.
Even though the inclusion of the Easter holidays will have distorted footfall rates, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said looking beyond this, the picture over the last quarter has been largely positive.
"As has been the trend for some months now, high streets across most of the UK attracted the largest increase in visitors out of all shopping destinations. This translated into good news for stores too, which saw their fastest annual sales growth since January last year," she said.
Springboard's Diane Wehrle said the weak pound drove an increase in overseas tourists - demonstrated by the +2.7 per cent uplift in footfall in London's West End in April - and in Easter staycations amongst domestic visitors, which saw boosts in coastal towns and historic towns.
"The underlying structural shift towards leisure-focussed trips meant that whilst high street footfall rose +1.9% during retail trading hours, trips to high streets after 5pm increased by more than +3%."
Retail vacancy rates
BRC-Springboard also found 9.3% of retail space in town centres was vacant during April, a slight improvement from the 9.4% in January due to sharp declines in Greater London and the East as high street vacancy rates everywhere else worsened in April.
"The vacancy rate is perhaps a portent of things to come," said Wehrle, "inflationary pressures are likely to increase, which could suppress customer behaviour and therefore occupier demand, notwithstanding the emergence of new occupiers who initially tend to focus on London."