TOP NEWS: January UK Retail Park Footfall Up But High Street Suffers

LONDON (Alliance News) - The month of January brought the worst decline in shop footfall in the ...

Alliance News 12 February, 2018 | 6:12AM
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LONDON (Alliance News) - The month of January brought the worst decline in shop footfall in the UK for five years, the British Retail Consortium/Springboard Retail Footfall Monitor revealed Monday.

Though the UK high street continued to suffer in January,retail parks saw an improvement in traffic, buoyed growth in online spending and 'click and collect' orders.

For the four weeks from December 31 to January 27, BRC/Springboard said footfall decreased by 1.6% year-on-year, faster than the fall of 1.3% seen in the same period in 2017. This was a slight improvement on the three-month average of minus 1.8%, but worse than the 12-month average of minus 0.7%.

The 1.6% overall drop was an improvement from December's 3.5% fall, but the worst result for the month of January since 2013.

All regions showed a drop in footfall for January, with the sharpest decline seen in Scotland, down 4.6%, the south west of England, down 2.6%, and the east of England, down 2.5%. Greater London's decline eased to a 1.2% fall compared to December's drop of 3.7%.

"It is clear that the challenges facing bricks and mortar retailing are continuing to build," said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

High street footfall fell by 1.9% in January which, while an improvement compared to December's 4.6% fall, was a steeper decline than the 0.8% fall seen in January 2017.

However, retail parks saw more footfall, up 0.9% year-on-year in January. This follows a 0.6% fall in December 2017, and a 0.4% fall in January 2017.

"Retail parks clearly now fulfil a wider role for shoppers; yes, they are convenient and functional shopping locations, but are buoyed by the continuing growth in online spending. Not only are they efficient click and collect points, but their attraction is enhanced by a wider offer, embracing hospitality," said Wehrle

"Herein lies the lesson for stores in urban locations of high streets and shopping centres; their longevity is contingent upon their ability to embrace all steps of consumers' path to purchase, which implicitly necessitates a first-class click-and-collect experience," Wehrle added.

Shopping centre footfall fell by 3.1% in January, compared to the three-month average of minus 2.8%.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 8.9% in January 2018, down from 9.3% in October 2017.

"January painted a picture of divided fortunes with a slight improvement in town vacancy rates but decline in shopper footfall. The latter fell in line with the underlying trend of reduced customer activity in shopping destinations, compounded by the squeeze on discretionary spending. Meanwhile retail sales continue to be buoyed by inflation, masking the lack of real growth," said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.

"If we look beyond the seasonal distortion, the pressures to rationalise and downsize store portfolios are continuing to build as structural and technological change gains momentum," Dickinson added.

In January, Marks & Spencer Group PLC said it plans to close six clothing stores by the end of April and slow down the opening of Simply Food stores. A further eight clothing stores are proposed for closure, affecting 468 members of staff.

By Lucy Heming; lucyheming@alliancenews.com

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Securities Mentioned in Article
Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar Rating
Marks & Spencer Group PLC 281.90 GBX -0.35 -
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