Sep 10, 2018
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UK footfall down again in August, only retail parks are positive

Sep 10, 2018

The latest  figures for UK retail footfall are out and they don’t look good. Footfall dropped in the four weeks to August 25, which could simply be seen as a continuation of the general downward trend. But it seems that it also dropped by more than the previous month, according to specialist tracking company Springboard.

The new autumn offer wasn't appealing enough to tempt UK shoppers into stores last month

That’s worrying. Given that July was all about the heatwave when shoppers shunned stores for other outdoor pursuits, it wasn’t a shock that footfall dropped by 0.8%. But a 1.6% fall for August, when more ‘normal’ weather (sun/cloud/rain) had returned, hinted at more tough times ahead.

Springboard said that continually rising food price inflation meant less money left over for non-essentials like fashion. And of course, there’s the long-term trend of fewer trips to physical stores as online shopping grows to add into the mix.

So what actually happened last month? Well, only one region, Northern Ireland, saw growth (0.5%) and the recent upward curve we’ve been seeing on high streets came to an end with a record 2% decline.

Retail parks meanwhile saw a much better - but still mixed performance - with a 0.3% uplift. The East and Southwest actually rose 5.1% and 4% respectively, but the North & Yorkshire, East Midlands and London were all down.

And shopping centres, where most fashion retailers are concentrated, continued to see year-on-year falls, although at a slower rate. In August, Shopping centre footfall dropped by 2.4%, less of a decline than July’s 3.4% fall. However, August is now the 17th month of consecutive decline and no region saw any malls growth.

Springboard Marketing and Insights Director Diane Wehrle highlighted the fact that August was the worst result since April. She said that despite some days that were still very hot, most summer-focused purchases would have happened in June and July.

That could mean that August suffered from coming at the end of a blistering summer and not being chilly enough to drive many people to want to start buying their autumn wardrobes.

Wehrle also said that it was daytime footfall that dropped the most last month, suggesting that trips to retail destinations that also have leisure facilities such as dining and cinemas held up more strongly, which piles up more bad news for the fashion sector.

But Wehrle said there is an upside: “Necessity is the mother of invention and the positive outcome of this pressure is that a number of retailers are working hard to reshape their proposition with the launch of new ranges, improved in-store experiences and technology enhancements in-store and online, so they are fit for purpose moving forward.”

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