Mild March puts spring in high street footfall

Consumer confidence Retail sales High street, independents, retail

New high street footfall figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) covering the five weeks from 24 February to March 30 2019 have shown a 1.4% increase year on year, though that was against 2018 when it fell sharply by -6%.

Retail park footfall increased by 1.5%, in contrast to March 2018 when footfall decreased by -1.8%. Shopping centre footfall fell by -1%, against a decline of -4.8% in March 2018, now the 24th month of consecutive decline.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC said:Retailers will be relieved to see footfall up from last year, though this is was heavily influenced by the weather. Shoppers in 2018 were contending with the “Beast from the East”, but this March has been mild by comparison. Unfortunately, the higher footfall has not translated into higher spending.”

While the data also showed that shopping centres continue to suffer, with 24 consecutive months of decline in footfall, Dickinson believes “it is vital that all different shopping locations are fit for the future, offering the mix of retail and experience-led opportunities that generate the necessary footfall to succeed.”

At first sight the year on year rise in footfall of +1.4% in March appears to signify a reverse in trend from the previous two years, when footfall dropped in all but two of the past 22 months.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and Insights director, added:Whilst news of an improvement in footfall would be most welcome, it is simply not the case and instead the rise of +1.4% should be regarded as an exceptional circumstance relating to a dramatic slump in footfall in March 2018 of -6%.  Indeed, this was by far the worst monthly result of the year and adversely influenced the outcome for footfall in 2018 as a whole.”

With Easter coming this week, retailers across the board will be hoping for a real jump start to the spring/summer season, though promotions and mid-season Sales will once again be impacting margins.