Footfall in September was 0.2% lower than a year ago, an improvement on the 1.6% fall in August. This was above the three-month average of -0.9%. Footfall in retail park locations increased 4.0% year-on-year. This is the highest figure since January 2014, excluding Easter distortions.
High streets and shopping centres reported a decline in footfall of 1.4% and 1.3% respectively. This is the high street's best performance for seven months, excluding Easter distortions.
Three regions reported positive footfall growth in September, with the greatest rise seen in the East Midlands. All other regions and countries reported footfall below the UK average.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, says: “Retail parks continue to offer shoppers a full leisure experience and are already seeing strong increases in footfall. Retailers who have invested in stores in these locations will be hoping the draw remains strong throughout the winter months.
“The overall decline in shopper numbers across the UK now stands at 0.2% - a marked improvement from last August’s 1.6% fall. UK high streets are showing their best figures for seven months with the footfall decline slowing to just 1.4%. This may offer a small crumb of comfort to retailers who will be hoping that this signals the end of shoppers deserting the high street and raise hopes of their return, especially with Christmas on the horizon.
“Making high streets more attractive for customers will be crucial in the countdown to Christmas and beyond. Where greater local decision making can support this it will be welcomed. However if greater devolution only serves to push up costs and confuse customers then this would do more harm than good at a critical time for the industry.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, says: “The perfect Autumn weather, additional bank holiday trading day and lowest vacancy rate for two years are key drivers behind relatively pleasing figures for September. The drop in footfall of 0.2% across the UK was the best year-on-year performance since March, and the second best month over the last 17 months.
“The UK vacancy rate of 9.8% is the lowest on record since July 2011 and is undoubtedly helping to retain footfall in high streets and shopping centres, and a longer term trend to watch. Flexible leases are becoming increasingly available, with more property owners now comfortable with marketing their empty units to pop ups through platforms such as Appear Here, which has booked over 1000 pop up spaces just in London this year and helped bring much needed dining and coffee shop brands, as well as retail brands, into empty space. The reduction in empty units and increased newness on the high street is providing lapsed high street shoppers with a reason to visit.
“Footfall in retail parks clocked up a 4% year-on-year increase in September, the best performing month for 18 months since April 2014. Convenience, no-cost parking and Click and Collect and strong weekend repeat customers are all helping to boost shoppers and footfall as a steady trend.”