Retail footfall registered a sharp decline in February as rising visits to retail parks failed to offset declines across shopping centres and high streets.
Footfall last month declined 0.5% year on year in what was dubbed a “major decline” in comparison with the 1% drop during the same period in 2017.
According to the BRC-Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor this decline was also ahead of the three- and 12-month average falls of 2% and 0.7% respectively.
Half of the regions across the UK registered a rise in footfall during the period, with Northern Ireland registering the biggest improvement of 3%.
Retail footfall also grew in the East Midlands and the East during the period, up 2.1% and 0.7% respectively.
Retail parks were the strongest-performing shopping destination during the period, while the high street registered growth in the East Midlands, Northern Ireland and the East.
By contrast, shopping centres posted declining footfall across all regions bar the West Midlands, where footfall rose 0.7%.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Footfall continued to fall year on year in February across most retail destinations, even before the significant impact of the snow over the last two weeks.
“This was mirrored in relatively flat consumer spending overall, that continues to struggle against the current retail headwinds.”
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle added: “The 0.5% drop in footfall in February was less than a third of that recorded in January and lower than the 12-month average of -0.7%, providing some good news in the face of the trading challenges for retailers reported recently.
“The other good news was that the 0.9% drop in shopping centre footfall was better than the past five months, and could finally be a sign of the positive impact of investment by centre owners over the past few years.
“However, it is still tricky to get an accurate temperature reading of retail trading trends this year.
“The current raft of closures among retailers and hospitality operators are at least in part due to overly bullish budgeting over the period from 2015, before the pre-Brexit economic jitters; but clearly exacerbated by poorer than expected Christmas trading.
“The recent snow and an early Easter will impact footfall in March, and so April’s footfall will also be affected. A true like-for-like trading picture will therefore only be clear at the end of the second quarter, meaning retailers will have to hold their breath to know how 2018 is shaping up.”