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Footfall drops for 11th consecutive month

Footfall in October fell by 2% on the previous year, an identical fall to that recorded in October 2017 and a deeper decline than September 2018 when footfall fell by 1.7%.

According to the Springboard retail footfall figures, October also marked the 11th month of consecutive footfall decline. However, analysts suggest there are signs consumers are waiting for Black Friday and seasonal discounts before visiting shops.

Northern Ireland was the only region to record growth of 2.7%, with footfall growing by 4% in both its high streets, up from September’s decline of 6.1% in both locations. The east and east Midlands experienced the deepest footfall decreases of 6.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Wales saw a deceleration in footfall decline, from -5.5% recorded in September to -2.3% in October.

High street footfall across the UK fell by 2.3%, the third month of consecutive weakening for this shopping location. Northern Ireland and greater London were the only two regions to see growth of 4% and 0.2%, respectively. The decline in the south east accelerated from 0.6% to 5%, the deepest fall since April 2018 drop of 6.2%.

Footfall levels at retail parks declined by 0.2% in October, following two months of positive growth. The Shopping centre footfall decline deepened to 3.3% from 2.5% in September (now 19 months of consecutive decline), a similar rate seen in October 2017, when it fell by 3%. No region experienced growth in this location.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 9.6% in October 2018, an increase on the previous year when the rate was 9.3%. Most regions saw a deterioration in their town vacancy rate compared to the previous quarter. The number of vacant retail units in greater London increased from 4% in July to 5% in October, though it remains the region with the lowest vacancy rate in the UK. Northern Ireland saw the highest improvement from 14.4% in July to 13.3% in October.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “If further evidence of the veracity of footfall as an indicator of retail trading performance were required then it is provided by October’s result of -2%. Not only does it reflect the ongoing challenges that the retail sector is facing but, as importantly, with the decline becoming larger in every month since June, it is illustrating that the challenges for retailers have been increasing as we moved through the year.”

She added: “At the same time, while the UK vacancy rate has risen marginally to 9.6% from 9.2% in the last quarter, it still remains below 10% as it has done in all but one quarter since July 2015. This is further evidence that the offer in bricks and mortar destinations is shifting to better accommodate continued consumer demand for experience-led visits.

“The catalyst was the growth in demand for hospitality and, while this is continuing despite the fact that the growth in eating out visits has slowed since the heady days of 2015, it has opened up opportunities for the introduction of more diverse experience and leisure led propositions in destinations that ultimately may well broaden the definition of retail.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, added: “October showed another month reflecting the continued long-term decline in footfall. This trend is primarily driven by a move from in-store to online purchases. With retail becoming more digital, physical shopping locations are working to reinvent themselves as places people go for days-out rather than just for day to day purchases.”

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