Mar 11, 2019
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UK footfall drops again, worst February for years

Mar 11, 2019

UK physical stores have experienced yet another significant decline in footfall with the latest figures (covering the period from January 27 up to February 23) showing a 2% fall. A year earlier, when the weather had been mild ahead of the unexpected snowstorms at the very end of the month, footfall had dropped only 0.2%.

Chinese tourists provided a boost to London stores last month

However, it looks like London’s fashion stores saw an uplift as Chinese tourists kept the cash registers ringing and there were also hints that if the weather stays mild, it could be good news for store traffic.

The figures, from specialist tracking company Springboard and the British retail Consortium, made up the 15th month of consecutive decline and represented the weakest February in five years.

All retail destination types fell this time, with high streets down by 1.9%, retail parks weakening by a more mild 0.8%, but shopping centres dropping by as much as 3.4%. All destinations were weaker than a year ago.

The shopping centre figure was particularly bad news for fashion as many fashion stores are found in such locations.

Springboard also said that no region saw growth in shopping centres during February. But Greater London appears to have been the strongest region overall, with a fall of just 1.4%, but Springboard said that was likely to have been linked to Chinese New Year. The city certainly saw a surge of tourists spending heavily in London’s higher-end fashion stores.

The company also said that London’s strength could be a hint of better news ahead as “footfall in Greater London is generally the last to decline and the first to recover due to the diversity of its economy and sheer volume of activity.”

Diane Wehrle, the firm’s Marketing and Insights Director, said of the overall figures: “The 2% drop in footfall in February – a significant worsening from -0.5% in February 2018 – occurred despite the fact that February this year was the hottest on record. However, the record temperatures only occurred in the final week of the month when footfall rose by 2.5% compared with drops in each of the preceding three weeks, averaging -3.6%. Indeed, the balmy conditions certainly helped high streets where footfall rose by 4.5% in the last week of the month compared with an average drop of 4.1% in the preceding three weeks.”

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson added: “Consumers have been cautious in their spending. These figures echo the month’s poor Retail Sales figures, which saw weak growth, particularly in bricks-and-mortar stores. While real incomes have been rising over the last year, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit appears to be driving a' needs-not-wants' approach to shopping.

“Things could get a lot worse unless the Government is able to avoid a calamitous no-deal Brexit.”

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