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More shoppers headed out to stores in June: BRC

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Store visitor numbers rose in June, compared to the previous year, as shoppers headed for retail parks and high streets, but stayed away from shopping centres.

Warm weather encouraged customers to head in-store to update their wardrobes, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC), as the number of people visiting retail parks grew by 2.3% in June – contrasting with a 1% fall in June 2016 but continuing a three-month average of 2.2% growth, according to the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies tracker for the month. High street visitor numbers were also up, rising by 0.9% in June, in contrast to the 3.7% fall seen a year earlier. But shopping centre numbers were down by 0.8% in June, in the context of a 2.3% fall a year ago.

The figures reflect the upbeat retail sales figures: the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for June shows UK retail sales up by 1.2%, like-for-like, from June 2016, with online sales ahead by 10.1% in what Met Office figures suggested was the second warmest June on record, equalling the temperatures seen in 1938. It was also the eighth wettest.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , said this week: “The arrival of summer spurred greater shopper footfall in the majority of retail destinations in June. High streets and retail parks saw solid growth in footfall, as shoppers headed out to renew their wardrobes and purchase other seasonal items. Most parts of the UK benefitted from these sun-fuelled shopping outings, with the East of England especially witnessing brisk growth.

“Amidst economic uncertainty and mounting concern over the inflationary squeeze on household incomes, sustaining growth in shopper footfall will be challenging, more so as retailers seek to convert that into an improved performance at tills. And while they step up their efforts to keep prices down for their customers against rising input prices and inflation, the Government can help alleviate the cost pressures in the immediate term by sticking to their commitment on business rates reform to deliver a system fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director said: “The rise in footfall of +0.8% in June is a result that tells a different story to the sales statistics we are seeing, with the Springboard Sales Tracker recording drops in sales in department stores of -1.6% and of -2.3% in fashion stores. However, sales do present a very varied picture, dependent on the breadth of the measure used and inflationary pressures which push sales values up.

“The uplift in footfall in June, compared with the -1% drop in May, and its divergence from sales, can be attributed to a number of factors. The weather was far better than in June last year, which encourages consumers to visit bricks and mortar destinations, particularly external environments such as high streets and retail parks. Also in recent months, we have seen rising footfall in the hours after 5pm, illustrating the trend in consumer behaviour towards leisure trips after retail trading hours, demonstrated by the rise in hospitality sales of +0.3% in June. In June, however, the better weather supported the increase in footfall during daytime hours. Indeed, the cumulative impact of both these factors accounts for the weaker footfall performance in shopping centres compared with high streets and retail parks.”

Commenting on the figures, Paul Lewis, senior director of marketing at “The news that last month’s heatwave was a saving grace for the UK’s retail industry in June, with the high-street as a stand out performer, is a great boost for bricks and mortar retailers. However, with consumer confidence suffering its biggest decline in two years as high inflation takes its toll on spending power, retailers must ensure they are taking a smart approach to counter these tough conditions for consumers regardless of weather, and to ensure they make the effects last much longer than a short-lived heatwave.

“Retailers need to ensure the digital and physical are working together to increase overall sales figures, especially as the schools begin to break up over the next few weeks for the summer holidays. Last year, part of RetailMeNot, discovered that mobile devices unlocked £200 million sales in-store, therefore retailers should be utilising digital to ensure that the high street stays busy all summer.

“Shopping is no longer divided into the plain and simple clicks vs bricks and consumers want to switch between the two experiences seamlessly. With consumer spending power suffering, shoppers want a straight-forward experience, investigating competitor prices, discovering local sales and comparing customer reviews all whilst standing in-store or walking down the high-street.”

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