Gloomy retail footfall following a gloomy March

According to the British Retail Consortium, retail footfall has seen the steepest year-on-year decline since the end of 2010 in March, a worrying sign for bricks and mortar mobility retailers.

The Consortium revealed that footfall in March decreased 6 percent, a substantial decline compared to the positive rate of 1.3 percent seen for March 2017, with bad weather throughout the month playing a role.

The 12-month average footfall is -1.4 percent in the UK, with no growth for any UK regions. The regions that saw the most notable decline (year-on-year) were in Greater London at -7.5 percent, South East at -6.5 percent and in the East Midlands at -5.6 percent. 

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, commented: "Whilst the prolonged period of bad weather has had an impact on shoppers visiting the high street, we are seeing a longer-term trend of reduced footfall which highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop.”

Growth fell in all shopping destinations, with high streets experiencing saw a decline of 8.6 per cent, retail parks of 1.8 percent and shopping centres of 4.8 percent.

"The retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this. Policy-makers must also play their part with a vision for a modern business taxation system which reflects this new environment,” added Helen.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said: "The severe weather put paid to any glimmer of hope for an uplift in shopper activity in March. Hitting the week following the pay day weekend was the worst timing possible as it meant that shoppers who had available budget deferred trips. A proportion of this was made up over Easter, with footfall in shopping centres and retail parks rising from last Easter but this was more than offset by the impact of the heavy rain on high streets. Indeed, throughout the month we were able to track the impact on footfall each day as adverse weather moved across the UK.”

Comparing the weekly trend of spend with annual change in footfall, the company found that footfall was hardest hit in the first week of the month, with a decline of -17.1 percent from the week previous. Footfall recovered the second week, increasing by +25.5 percent and by an average of +2.3 percent over the month, suggesting that deferred trips were reinstated when the weather improved.

"The bounce back was based on a reduced shopper pool compared with last year, with the significant annual decline of -6 percent over the month demonstrating that there is reduced shopper activity this year than in 2017. This is undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints attached to current price inflation and concern for the future, exacerbated by the underlying structural shift in consumer habits away from purely transaction-based activity towards activity with a leisure focus,” added Diane.​