Retail parks continued their resurgence in October as footfall jumped 2.9% to outperform high streets and shopping centres.
Overall footfall dipped 0.2% as high streets reported a 1% drop in shopper numbers while shopping centres suffered a 1.3% decline.
Retail park locations continue to outperform their rivals following September’s high of 4% footfall growth, as shoppers take advantage of the convenient out-of-town destinations, which often benefit from free parking.
According to the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, the East Midlands was the strongest performing region in England, reporting footfall growth of 1.9% in October.
Shopper numbers increased 1.8% in the Southwest, 1.3% in the Southeast and 0.8% in Greater London during the month.
Footfall rose 2.1% in Northern Ireland and 0.4% in Wales, but Scotland suffered a 0.6% drop off in shopper numbers.
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The locations consumers are choosing to shop remains in a state of flux. While the rate of decline in footfall across high streets and shopping centres appears to have stabilised, more and more shoppers are choosing to visit retail parks, which offer a greater mix of leisure and retail.”
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “October is fast becoming an important ‘look and compare’ month for shoppers ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is driving up footfall across all retail destinations.
“Footfall may have remained relatively unchanged for October from September, but over the past two years as the importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday grows, we are seeing a significant increase in footfall for the month of October from -2.9% in 2013 to -0.8% in 2014 and this month’s -0.2%.”
While overall footfall dipped again, the national town centre vacancy rate dropped to 9.1% – the lowest level since BRC-Springboard began compiling the data back in July 2011.
But Dickinson added: “There is a little cheer in the news that vacancies have fallen once again. However, in order for this good news to be sustainable, action is urgently needed to reform business rates. Otherwise the new occupants of these premises will, in the not too distant future, find themselves struggling under the weight of ballooning bills.
“If the burden of business rates continues to grow as it has in the past, today’s vacancy figure may become but a distant, happy memory. Action now will ensure our high streets remain vibrant and viable long into the future.”