More shoppers headed for the high streets in June – but fewer visited retail parks and malls. This, suggests Springboard’s Diane Wehrle, may be evidence that town centres are shifting to encourage leisure visitors.
While the high street saw 0.1% more visitors in the five weeks to June 30 than at the same time last year, according to the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, visits to shopping centres were down by 3.4% while retail park visits fell by 0.4%. Overalll, footfall fell by 0.9%.
Growth on the high street might be lacklustre but nonetheless marks the second month of consecutive growth since November 2017.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said June’s drop in footfall was the seventh in as many months and meant the longer period of continued falls since 2015. Added to that, she said footfall was down during retail trading hours across all destinations.
"The shift to leisure based trips, initially evidenced by uplifts in footfall post 5pm, now also supports footfall during the day time trading period. Many high streets have capitalised on this trend more swiftly than shopping centres, demonstrated by a drop of -0.8% in day time footfall in high streets in June compared with -3.9% in shopping centres. Clearly many shopping centres need to transform quickly to be able to capitalise once again on their inherent assets of cohesive management and strength of offer. Understanding today’s consumer appetite for even local destinations to deliver retail alongside leisure and hospitality, will enable centres to capture footfall attracted by a variety of lifestyle uses; which is essential if shopping centres are to turn the tide on the ongoing decline.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that while good weather had resulted in a "marginal" year-on-year improvement in footfall, retail parks and shopping centres had had "an altogether more difficult time".
She said: "Consumer behaviour has changed, with shoppers now requiring much more choice in terms of how, when and where they shop, and retailers are responding to this, investing in their physical store experiences and online presence."
She said that initiatives such as the Government’s Great British High Street Awards were important as communities adapt to retail transformation. "However considerable pressure on retail remains, but policy makers can help by supporting our call for a two-year freeze in business rate increases to provide some headroom while a reform of the business rates system is carried out."
Our view: Is this a sign of a fledgling recovery on the high street? Warm weather generally tempts shoppers out, just as freezing blizzards keeps them at home. But even very warm weather has only tempted 0.1% more people out than last June. Springboard and the BRC both see evidence of changing consumer behaviour here. So many more utility purchases can now be made online that it now takes more to tempt shoppers out. People now don’t need to go shopping in the way that they did. Rather, a shopping visit must now be convenient, necessary, or fun.