Retail footfall decreased by -0.5% YoY in February – a major decline compared to the rate of 1.0% seen in February 2017 – according to the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor. This was better than the three-month average of -2.0%  and the 12-month average of -0.7%.

Half of the regions saw growth in February, the most notable being Northern Ireland which grew by +0.3%, ending eight months of consecutive decline. East Midlands grew by +2.1% up from the -2.2% decrease in the previous month. The East returned to growth, footfall having increased by +0.7% in February.

Greater London and the South East continue to experience decline of -1.1% and -1.0%, respectively, in February.

Retail parks outperformed all other shopping locations – the West Midlands grew by +5.1%, South East by +4.8% and South West by +2.6%.

The high street showed growth for three regions – East Midlands (+4.8%), Northern Ireland (+1.9%) and the East (+1.8%).

Shopping centres were the weakest performing of all three shopping destinations, with the West Midlands being the only region that recorded growth (+0.7%).

Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC chief executive, says: “Footfall continued to fall YoY in February across most retail destinations, even before the significant impact of the snow over the last two weeks. This was mirrored in relatively flat consumer spending overall, that continues to struggle against the current retail headwinds.

“Retail parks fared better with footfall rising above the three-month average. These locations are typically home to furniture retailers whose offer of credit options paid off by enticing shoppers and boosting sales. 

“Looking ahead, there’s some hope that shopper activity will pick up now that inflationary pressure has started to subside and wage growth is expected to move in the right direction. But this will offer only modest relief to retailers and consumers and the recent sad news announcing the closures of several well-known high street retailers should sharpen our focus to what is going on in retail in the UK at present.

“Retailers are facing into rapid structural change from digital evolution and rising operating costs. We know that there will be fewer stores in the future as portfolios are consolidated, so businesses and communities need to focus on repurposing physical space based on experience and refining the interplay with digital. For policymakers meanwhile, it is about recognising and acting on the disproportionate impact these headwinds are having on vulnerable communities up and down the country.”