Footfall fell 0.6% in July yet shop vacancy rates recorded their best performance since BRC/Springboard’s records began.

The drop in footfall, though an improvement on June’s 0.7% fall, was driven by the decline on the high street, according to the BRC/Springboard data. In July, footfall on high streets fell 1.7%, in line with the decline in June. Shopping centres experienced a 0.5% decline, an improvement on the 1.2% fall in June. Footfall across out of town locations performed the strongest, up 1.7%.

Scotland showed the greatest rise in regional footfall, up 4.4%.

The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.1% in July, an improvement on April’s rate of 10.6% and the best performance since the BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor started in July 2011.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “These results are a mixed bag.

“Footfall dipped 0.6 per cent in July compared to the same period last year, albeit less pronounced than in June. Out-of-town destinations performed well, off the back of strong sales of furniture, home accessories and outdoor and garden items, while high streets and shopping malls dipped reflecting weaker sales of goods such as beauty products.

“The reduction in the shop vacancy rate for the third successive quarter is heartening, with the vacancy rate at its lowest level since our records began in July 2011. However it is still the case that every tenth shop remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for a fundamental overhaul of commercial property taxes, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new or existing retail premises and thus help rejuvenate our high streets.”

Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle said: ‘’July did not herald any good news as the 0.6% drop in footfall is a stark contrast to the increase of 0.8% in July 2013. And the picture is less rosy for high streets than for shopping centres or retail parks, as footfall dropped by 1.7 per cent for the second month in a row, which is a clear deterioration in performance from July 2013 when footfall rose by 2.3 per cent.

‘’Whilst footfall continues to decline, the improvement in vacancy rates – which has occurred for the third quarter in a row – indicates a growing flexibility and responsiveness of landlords in the face of tough trading conditions, which has increasingly included the introduction of “pop-up” shops and temporary lets.  

“And the good news underpinning this is that the drop in vacancies over each of the last three quarters is widespread, occurring in at least six UK regions. However, the key issue for town centres in the longer term is the extent to which any temporary let is converted into long-term occupation beyond the Summer and into the key Christmas trading period.’’