Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 14th May 2018
The total number of visits made to retail outlets fell in all regions of the UK over the course of April and vacancy rates are rising in town centres nationwide.
That’s according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its latest set of figures which paint a gloomy picture for the UK’s high street retailers and the retail sector as a whole.
On a year to year basis, the scale of the decline in footfall among retailers throughout the UK was put at -3.3 per cent during April and at -4.8 per cent over the course of March and April combined.
The decline in high street footfall during March and April this year as compared with the same period of 2017 represents the steepest fall recorded by the BRC for those months so far this decade.
Worryingly, the decline in footfall seen during March and April of this year was steeper even than that recorded during the recession of 2009.
A growing list of well-known British retail businesses have been forced into administration in recent months, including Toys R Us and the electricals company Maplin.
Meanwhile, the likes of House of Fraser, New Look, Carpetright and Poundworld have all been forced to restructure their operations in significant ways in order to survive financial crises and stay in business.
Reflecting on her organisation’s latest data, Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, suggested that wet weather in early April hindered footfall at high street stores to some degree but she also describes the current business environment for British retailers as being “highly challenging”.
“A wet start to April had a dampening effect on visits across the UK’s shopping locations adding to the long term downward in footfall resulting from changing consumer behaviour,” she said in a statement.
“That shift in the way we shop, coupled with a highly challenging business environment, is having a significant impact on the nation’s high streets: in April nearly 1 in 10 shops in town centres was vacant.”
According to the BRC, all regions of the UK saw an increase in vacancy rates within their town centres during April, with the exception of Greater London.
Footfall fell most sharply last month in Northern Ireland, where high street shopping activity rates slumped by as much as 7.3 per cent compared with a year earlier.