January brought some stability for bricks-and-mortar stores, with a drop in footfall of just -0.5% from January 2019, when footfall dropped by -0.7% YoY, states Springboard.
This was reinforced by an improvement in shop vacancies, with the rate of 9.8% being the lowest for a year, and below the rate of 9.9% in January 2019.
Footfall in retail parks rose by +1.4% YoY, and in shopping centres by +0.2% YoY – the first month to show an increase since March 2017. High street footfall declined by -1.8% YoY.
"Retail parks continued to attract additional shoppers, with a rise in footfall of +1.4% demonstrating their ability to bridge the gap between functionality and experience by offering a proposition that meets the needs of today’s efficient shopper – they are easy to access and navigate with the additional benefit of free parking, whilst incorporating an offer that matches consumer expectations as spending restraint continues in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty," comments Springboard's marketing and insights director, Diane Wehrle.
"January was the first month since March 2017, and only the third month in four years, that footfall in shopping centres rose – and whilst a rise of +0.2% is only a modest increase, it brings some much-needed hope for this destination type, that has consistently lost shoppers for over two years. It seems that this is an early sign that the regeneration schemes long planned by owners to broaden the offer of malls to incorporate a greater experiential element – particularly in the larger malls – are working, and they now better reflect consumers' demands. It is likely that this is part of the reason why footfall in high streets declined by -1.8% in January, as consumers were attracted back into shopping centres, and is further illustrated by the contrast in footfall post 8pm, which rose by +3% in shopping centres whilst declining by -1.3% in high streets.
"This result reinforces the benefit of a single ownership structure and also demonstrates the realisation that the old format of 100% retail is no longer relevant. Whilst the gestation period for shopping centre investment may be a long one, once the chess pieces are finally in place a single owner is often more readily able deliver meaningful change than a high street, which can be weighed down by a multiplicity of owners, all of whom have varying objectives and aspirations for their particular asset. The path of enhancement of shopping centres has only just begun, but the shift in the proposition of some malls alongside the reduction in supply, taking out malls that are simply not fit for future purpose, will bode well for those that remain. The issue moving forward will be the cumulative impact of this, together with the functionality of retail parks, on high streets.”