Gifts Today magazine

Footfall on the up

Shop vacancies at lowest as High Streets report best performance in two years.

January figures have seen High Streets report their first rise in footfall since 2013, excluding Easter spikes, while the national town centre vacancy rate is also at its lowest in more than four years.

The boost has been welcomed by both the British Retail Consortium and Springboard, who compiled the data, but they also called on the Chancellor to keep the momentum going by changing the business rates system.

“The improvement in shopper footfall witnessed in January provided a timely and welcome fillip to retailers at the start of the year,” said BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson, “with retail parks once again recording a stellar performance.
“Indeed, this was the best overall footfall performance for two years, and well ahead of the three-month average.”

The research by BRC and the retail insights firm shows:
  • Footfall in January was 1.2 per cent up on a year ago, significantly above the 2.2 per cent decline seen in December, and its best performance since January 2014, excluding Easter distortions.
  • Footfall in retail park locations increased 5.2 per cent year-on-year, its best performance for two years. This is well ahead of December’s 2.1 per cent rise and above the three-month average rate of three per cent
  • High Streets reported their first rise in footfall since July 2013, excluding Easter distortions, and was significantly ahead of December’s four per cent decline. Footfall growth in shopping centres was broadly flat in January, it’s best performance since two years previously.
  • The national town centre vacancy rate was 8.7 per cent in January 2016, down from the 9.1 per cent rate reported in October 2015. This is the lowest reported rate since they began reporting the data in July 2011.

Helen added: “The further reduction in the shop vacancy rate is encouraging, more so against a backdrop in which online retailing is becoming increasingly popular.

“However, the fact remains that one in every 11 retail premises in our town centres lies empty. The current business rates system, in which rates bills only ever seem to rise, is wholly inadequate to the task ahead, so it is imperative that the Chancellor capitalises on the conclusion of the review next month to introduce a system which flexes with economic conditions and leads to a substantially lower tax burden.”

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director at Springboard, added: "The increase in footfall across all retail destination types, the first since December 2011, alongside the rise in spending in January, finally demonstrates what is well known – that bricks and mortar shopping environments are still important to consumers.

“Tracking footfall across 450 individual locations since 2009 has shown that it is the post 5pm period that has been most resilient, with improvements in daytime footfall following on from an increase in activity in the evening.

“Spend on furniture and hospitality led the way, which potentially has longer-term benefits by increasing shoppers' awareness of store offerings and driving up spend through longer dwell times and the ‘family effect’ whereby the family shopping group typically increases transactions values.

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