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A damp month for the high street

Shopper numbers fell in the last month as consumers reined in spending on non-essential items and a wetter than average summer kept people indoors and away from both tourist hot spots and the high street.

 

Latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard recorded a 1.1% slip in the four weeks to July 29, with footfall at high street desinations down by 2.1% after a period of relatively stable growth in the preceding months. Traffic at shopping centres fell by 1.3% whilst retail parks fared better with an increase of 1.7% in the same time frame. Out of town shopping locations, with their free parking and other convenience factors, have generally performed well since March of this year.

Springboard marketing and insight director Diane Wehrle said that whilst fashion sales fell, consumers increased their spending on products for the home, supplied in abundance by retail parks.

The East and the South East were the only two UK locations where footfall rose last month and shopper numbers fell most sharply in the South West and Greater London.

Looking ahead, Wehrle said: “These results, together with the high level of consumer borrowing and an increase in the vacancy rate to 9.6% from 9.3% in April, suggest that trading conditions could be reaching a tipping point into a period of restraint.”

The August deluge had a predictably negative impact on shopper numbers, but followed on the heels of positive results around the June heatwave, when footfall rose by 0.8% year-on-year. Here again retail parks were the biggest beneficiary in the four weeks to July 1, with a 2.3% jump in shoppers