Footfall across UK high streets dropped by its lowest rate in five years last year, dipping 1.1%, against a 3.5% fall in 2010.

Christmas shoppers

Data pulled together by footfall specialist Springboard suggests the decline in high street shoppers is bottoming out, it said.

According to Springboard’s National High Street Index Annual Review, footfall in December 2011 soared by 5.1% year-on-year, which was the UK’s first annual increase in footfall for five years. Springboard believes this was helped by the damaging winter weather the UK experienced in December 2010, which resulted in an annual 11.2% drop in footfall; an extra weekend of Christmas trading; and a delayed splurge from shoppers led by retailers cutting prices at the last minute.

Springboard chief executive Steve Booth said:“Despite the challenges that the UK High Street faces, the encouraging December footfall figure and the relatively static level of footfall throughout the year indicates that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

“It is important to note that this gradual rise in footfall does not necessarily mean that shoppers are spending but it does mean retailers have an increased sales opportunity.

“While Springboard figures show the High Street is managing to maintain shoppers, the challenge is getting them to spend; what will be interesting to see is how national events and holidays such as the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee will impact footfall and spend in 2012.”

Figures show shoppers are tending to ‘shop local’ to avoid petrol, transport and parking costs, resulting in a 4.2% drop in footfall across regional cities.

Coastal towns benefitted from the ‘shop local’ trend with a 2.3% lift in shoppers for the year and a 6% increase in December.