Retail Footfall Down In September, But Spending Grows

Footfall at retail stores in the UK declined during September, as did shop prices, but that did not stop retail spending from growing.

According to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, overall footfall was down 0.9% year-on-year, in comparison to a 0.1% increase in August. Footfall on the High Street was down 0.5%, while shopping centres recorded a 2.5% drop.  Footfall at retail parks, however, was flat on the year.

Despite this, retail spending grew by 1.3% year-on-year in September.

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director at Springboard, said: “The headline result for the UK shows a slight worsening of footfall in September from August, but does not reveal the underlying trend that shopping centres are losing shopper numbers at a faster rate than high streets.” She noted that this was “not just a one-off” as shopping centre footfall at such centres has dropped by 1.8% in the year-to-date.  She suggested the lower investment have seen many centres “become tired and in need of an uplift in order to become compelling retail destinations for shoppers”.

Wehrle added: “Moving forward into what should be the most lucrative trading period of the year, despite the challenges of a weaker pound and living wage costs, it is critical that staffing remains strong to deliver the level of customer service required to ensure retail destinations offer a quality customer experience.”

Commenting the figures, Alex Marsh, Managing Director of Close Brothers Retail Finance, said: “Today’s figures showing footfall on the high street has slumped may worry many retailers, who are already concerned with the long-term impact that Brexit may have on consumer confidence. Positively though, UK retail spending grew last month and it appears consumers have not been put off buying big ticket items. Our data shows a 4% growth since last month in the average big ticket item spend, indicating consumers are not holding back.

“However, high street retailers need to make sure they are in a position to weather any future knock in consumer confidence. Retailers need to offer the right finance options to their customers in order to make products more affordable and accessible whilst ensuring responsible lending possibly through fixed term lending rather than credit cards.”