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Shoppers desert the high street to buy online in June, a month of ‘many distractions’

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Distractions from the EU Referendum to Euro 2016 and Wimbledon fortnight added up to the sharpest fall in the number of visitors to UK high streets and shopping centres in more than two years, figures from the British Retail Consortium suggested today. The analysis suggests that rather than visiting their local store, many shoppers bought online instead.

Total retail footfall fell by 2.8% in June, compared to the same time last year, according to the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor. That follows a decline in store visitor numbers that averaged 1.7% between March and May.

June’s fall was sharpest on the high street (-3.7%) and shopping centres (-2.3%) but also hit retail parks, which have previously remained immune to the falling number of shoppers visiting stores.

However, pointed out Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , June did see an overall rise in retail sales. Previous analysis from the BRC suggests that online was the main driver of growth – rather than visiting stores on the high street it seems that shoppers went online to buy instead.

“June has seen many distractions from Euro 2016 to Wimbledon so heading out to the shops seems to have slipped down the priority list for many,” said Dickinson. “In the coming months we all must redouble our efforts to remind customers that now is a great time to get out into their local communities.

“Retailers continue to focus relentlessly on delivering for shoppers day in, day out, and they know that providing a great in-store experience is key to driving up footfall. Although there is a level of uncertainty, it is important that this doesn’t deter us from the shopping and leisure activities we all enjoy. The EU referendum will not have changed the in-store experience for customers and, crucially, the price of goods on the shelves. Now is a great time for shoppers as the summer sales begin in earnest following on from a record 38 months of falling shop prices.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director, Springboard , said the drop in footfall was perhaps unsurprising, given June’s “major political and economic news”.

“In the last three weeks of the month the drop in footfall averaged 4.1 per cent compared with just -0.9 per cent in the same weeks last year,” she said. “Whilst the cooler more rainy weather than last year will explain some of this degradation in performance, it is unlikely that it will have accounted for all the 5% drop in footfall of across UK destinations in the seven days post the referendum. Most significant is the out-of-town footfall decline; the first drop since December 2013. It is more likely that consumers’ attention was diverted in the immediate aftermath – the issue for retailers is how quickly shoppers will return to their usual patterns of behaviour.”

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