More shoppers headed to shops in March, a year on from the Beast from the East, although spending has not increased in line with visitor numbers, which grew fastest on the high street, the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard suggest.
Overall, footfall was up by 1.4% in March, compared to the previous year, the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor for the month found. This time last year, footfall was down by 6%. The number of people visiting the high street was up by 2.5%, while last year it was down by 8.6%. The longer-term three month trend shows average growth of 0.2%.
The numbers visiting retail parks rose by 1.5%, contrasting with a 1.8% fall in March 2018. But the total visiting shopping centres was down by 1%, where it had declined by 4.8% last year. This is the 24th month in a row that those visiting shopping centres has fallen. The three-month average shows an average decline of 1.7%.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retailers will be relieved to see footfall up from last year, though this was heavily influenced by the weather. While shoppers in 2018 were contending with the Beast from the East, this March has been mild by comparison. Unfortunately the higher footfall has not translated into higher spending.
“The data also showed that shopping centres continue to suffer, with 24 consecutive months of decline in footfall. It is vital that all different shopping locations are fit for the future, offering the mix of retail and experience-led opportunities that generate the necessary footfall to succceed.
“Furthermore, Government can support this transformation by reforming the outdated business system which holds back firms from investing in physical space.”
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said the rise only looked high in comparison to last year’s “dramatic slump” in footfall when the Beast from the East brought high levels of snowfall in 2018.
“The result clearly indicates that we continue to be int he mist of a no splurge culture; with consumer confidence continuing to languish, shoppers are clearly focused on prudence. This becomes very obvious when looking at footfall in each week; with the month being bookended by two strong weeks while footfall plunged in the middle three weeks. The most significant uplift this year occurred in the first week of the month when footfall rose by +17.6% against the same week I 2018, when the Beast from the East hit the UK, causing footfall to drop by -16.6%.”
She said the second positive week (+1.2%) had come in the last week of the month, contrasting with the week that included Good Friday and Easter Saturday last year and that also saw bad weather and falling footfall (-1.3% in March 2018).