Shoppers stayed away from the shops in May – as footfall fell to its lowest rate for six years, new figures suggest.
Store visitor numbers fell by 3.5% in May, according to analysis from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard, with footfall down across high streets (-4.8%), retail parks (-0.8%) and shopping centres (-3.6%).
The figures, said the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies May 2019 report, covered the four weeks from April 28 to May 25 but excluded the distortions caused as the Easter shopping period fell in different months in different years. The figures appear to up a pace of decline that was also in motion a year earlier, when footfall fell by 0.4%. Over a longer-term, three month, period to May 2019, footfall fell by 0.7%, lower than both the six month (-1.3%) and twelve month (-1.4%) averages.
The figures also come days after BRC figures showed retail sales hitting record lows both online and offline, in a month that contrasted with warm weather, the football World Cup and a royal wedding a year earlier.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The UK experienced the worst footfall figures in six years with declines in every region and across high streets, retail parks and shopping centres. This reflects our recent sales data, which showed the largest drop in retail sale on record. The colder weather, as well as ongoing political and economic uncertainty, made many consumers think twice before heading out to the shops this May.
“While consumers stayed away from the shops this May, retailers still had to pay the full cost of business rates, which are levied regardless of whether a store makes a penny at the till. These rising costs are making many retailers rethink investment decisions, as well as contributing to store closures up and down the country. The Government must act to reform this anachronistic tax system or it will be the consumer who suffer the shuttered windows at their local shopping locations.”
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said it was worth noting that last May enjoyed better weather and special events, while this year Easter fell earlier and weather was more mixed. She also said that the longer-term trend showed an improving situation, as the decline in customers visiting retail destinations during the year slowed.
“All destination types found it much tougher this May to attract customers, but the fact that the greatest impact was felt by high streets with a drop in footfall of -4.8% is not a surprise given the much poorer weather than in May last year,” she said.
“Footfall worsened across all parts of the day, but the most significant drop occurred post 5pm, moving from a rise of 1.9% in May last year to a decline of 0.45% this year. It is clear that consumers are being ever more discerning in their dining habits and recent failures in the sector indicate both the level fo competition and suggests that the everyday dining operators need to provide a more tempting food offer to keep customers fo the post-5pm spend slot.”