UK footfall increased in May

UK footfall increased in May

UK retail footfall edged up year-on-year in May, reflecting normal weather patterns and offering the high street some respite from the downward trend that has been building in recent months. 

The BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found shopper numbers were up 0.3% on a year ago, better than the 2.4% decline seen in April and significantly above the three-month average rate of -1.7%.

High streets and retail parks reported increases in May, both climbing 1.2%, with the former recording the best performance since July 2013. Shopping centres, however, saw a 2.1% decline in footfall last month, lower than the 0.7% in April.

However Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, pointed out that it is online, rather than stores, that drove May's sales upturn. 

"Footfall up and store sales down gives credence to the trend of an increasing use of the high street for leisure activities and the researching of purchases made online either later or on the move through mobile devices. 

"Retailers are working hard to respond to this fundamental structural change. They're investing to ensure they're meeting the needs of consumers who no longer think in channels and expect their shopping experience to be tailored to their specific needs and wants, whether in store or online. This investment, combined with the increasing cost of physical store space, means that retailers still find themselves in a relentless battle for every customer and every sale."

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, added that the modest increase in UK footfall does not necessarily mark the start of a positive trend just yet.

"This is only the 14th time over the last six years that footfall has risen, and over this period footfall increased in two consecutive months only twice. We would need to see at least a three-month increase in footfall to indicate the upward trend spells anything more than a break in the clouds. With the uncertainty created by the EU referendum affecting consumer confidence, it will be challenging for this three month trend to establish just now."