According to the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, retail footfall fell by -0.8% in July, in line with June's decline of -0.9% and July 2017’s decline of -1.1%.
High streets saw growth of +0.3%, the third month of consecutive growth (at -2.1%, July 2017 was a weak comparable).
Footfall in retail park locations declined by -0.5% in comparison to July 2017, when it increased by +1.7%.
Meanwhile, footfall in shopping centres fell by -3.4%, a deeper decrease compared to the -1.3% decrease in July 2017.
Only two regions saw footfall growth – the West Midlands (+1.6%, now two months of consecutive growth) and Scotland (+0.5%).
The national town centre vacancy rate was 9.2% in July 2018, unchanged from April 2018 and down from 9.6% in July 2017. Most regions remain largely unchanged since April 2018, the most improved region being West Midlands – now 10.2% from 11.8% in April.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) comments: “The hot, dry weather in July turned consumers’ attentions to eating, drinking and enjoying the outdoors. That provided a small lift for high streets as shoppers popped out to grab food, drink and fans to keep cool. However, the heat sapped shoppers’ stamina for longer trips, with both retail parks and shopping centres seeing footfall sink.
“Aside from short-term weather impacts, there’s no escaping the fact that retail is changing. With fewer people visiting physical stores and fewer purchases being made there, at the same time as costs are going up YoY, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing many retailers reduce their store portfolios.
"As shops close we need new businesses to emerge to reinvent the nation’s high streets. But that cannot happen if the burden of business rates they face continues to rise YoY, which is why we’re calling for a freeze in business rates in the Chancellor’s next Budget.
“The average town centre vacancy rate was lower in July this year compared to last year, driven by a sharp reduction in London, at the same time as other regions, including the South-east, saw vacancy rates increase.”
Diane Wehrle, Springboard's marketing and insights director, adds: "Inevitably, the hot weather in July impacted visits to retail destinations as the attraction of external environments and non-retail experiences lured consumers away from stores. But the fact that footfall in high streets rose marginally (by +0.3%) and only declined slightly in retail parks (by -0.5%) whilst dropping by -3.4% in shopping centres, gives the greatest insight into consumer trends.
"Undoubtedly the convenience of retail parks supported their footfall in July, with summer-led purchases of garden furniture and BBQs helping to offset poor furniture sales. And the increasing presence of food and beverage on parks clearly boosted footfall by +0.2% between 5pm and 8pm.
"In high streets, the very marginal -0.3% decline in footfall during shopping hours and a +1.7% rise post-5pm is indicative of their ability to cater for shoppers' demands. In contrast, in shopping centres the drop in footfall of -3.9% during retail trading hours was exacerbated by a -0.7% decline post-5pm, driven by a paucity of hospitality offer. Shopping centres are also hampered by the dominance of fashion and department stores/large multi-retail units, with footfall entering these types of stores declining by more than footfall generally.
"With the announcement of store closures made, but not yet all implemented, the vacancy rate for the UK remains at 9.2%. Counter-intuitively the vacancy rate improved over the quarter in five geographies, however, this may be accounted for by temporary lets over the summer taking advantage of space released from stores that have already ceased trading."