• Overall footfall fell 1% year-on-year last month
  • Footfall at shopping centres dropped 2.6%
  • Footfall at retail parks fell 1.6%
  • On high streets, shopper numbers edged up 0.1%

Total shopper numbers declined in February, when there was a “steeper drop than normal” at retail parks.

Overall footfall fell 1% year-on-year in the four weeks to February 25, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard footfall monitor.

That was above the three-month average of 0.8%, but marginally above the twelve-month average fall of 1.1%.

Footfall at shopping centres remained sluggish, down 2.6% last month – marginally below the three-month average decline of 2.4%.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the overall decline marks “little change to what has been a familiar story over the past few years.”

However, she observed that, on closer inspection, there has been a “steeper drop than normal in retail parks”.Shopper numbers in such locations fell at the fastest rate since November 2013.

Footfall in retail park locations slid 1.6% in February, compared with a 2.5% jump in the same period last year.

This is an acceleration on January’s fall of 0.4% and steeper than the three-month average fall of 0.9%.

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: “Increasing uncertainty arising from the imminent triggering of Article 50 has certainly started to have an impact on purchasing behaviour, the types of destinations shoppers are visiting and how they spend their money.

“Retail parks experienced their biggest drop in footfall since November 2013 as spend on furniture and household items – traditionally a significant footfall driver for retail parks – weakened slightly in February.”

High street footfall

However, on the high street, footfall edged up 0.1% last month, compared with last year’s fall of 2.9%.

Dickinson said that was likely to have been driven by high streets’ “diverse offer”.

Wehrle said: “High Streets are clearly benefiting as the destination of choice for dining and leisure, whilst shopping centres continue to underperform as they struggle with a weak entertainment and leisure offer, coupled with increasing caution amongst consumers around retail spend.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, Dickinson said: “The modest relief fund for business rates announced in the Budget will hopefully go some way to helping those shops hardest hit, albeit only temporarily.

“It won’t however ease the burden for the majority of retailers who will continue to pay nearly a half of rental values in property tax.

“A business tax system that continues to curtail investment in bricks and mortar is at odds with an industry that desperately wants to invest in order to maintain local jobs and build more experience and engagement with shoppers to attract them into their stores.”