The steepest decline in footfall last month occurred in the South West and Greater London

The steepest decline in footfall last month occurred in the South West and Greater London

Fashion sales were a casualty of lower shopper numbers on high streets in July as consumers increased their spend on home items and at out-of-town locations, new figures show.

The latest Springboard Footfall monitor found shopper numbers were down 1.1% in July on a year ago, below the three-month rolling average of -0.4% and the 12-month of -0.2%, respectively. There were only four positive months within the past 12, against an average of two within the previous three years.

Retail parks were the winners in July, seeing 1.7% growth, while shopping centres saw their fourth consecutive month of footfall decline, with shopper numbers down 1.3%. The highest decline was felt by the high street, which experienced a decline of 2.1%.

The steepest decline in footfall last month occurred in the South West of the country and Greater London, both showing a fall of 2.1%, while the east and south east were the only two regions that saw footfall growth in July.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, believes July's results might well mark a sea change in consumers' willingness to spend, as it was the first time since January that footfall dropped during both retail trading hours and into the evening.

"Over the last few months the growing importance of the leisure-based trip has become a key part of the narrative when talking about retail destinations, but a 0.5% drop in footfall post 5pm in July is the first evidence of a tightening of purse strings on casual dining and leisure trips."

Declining footfall, she adds, demonstrates that the fall in non-food sales is due to a reduced number of shoppers, so retailers that maintain their in-store footfall are at a clear advantage.

"Despite a drop in fashion sales, consumers increased their spending on products for the home and out of town locations are the beneficiaries. These results together with the high level of consumer borrowing and an increase in the vacancy rate to 9.6% from 9.3% in April – the highest it's been since July last year - suggest that trading conditions could be reaching a tipping point into a period of restraint."