Shopper numbers fell again in the UK in February

Shopper numbers fell again in the UK in February

UK retail footfall dropped year-on-year in February as uncertainty from the imminent triggering of Article 50, which begins the process of quitting the European Union (EU), starts to have an impact on consumer purchasing behaviour.

The latest BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor found shopper numbers were down 0.1% on a year ago, resulting in a sixth consecutive month of decline, but a shallower fall than the 1.3% decline in January. February's figure is below the three-month average of -0.8%.

Retail parks and shopping centres both reported drops in February, down 1.6% and 2.6% respectively, with the former an acceleration on January's fall of 0.4% and below the three-month average of -0.9%. High streets, however, saw a 0.1% increase in footfall last month, after a decline of 0.8% in January.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director, believes footfall in February was a tale of two halves.

"Whilst footfall improved slightly on January...this should not be confused with a stabilising of consumer behaviour. Increasing uncertainty from an imminent triggering of Article 50 has certainly started to have an impact on purchasing behaviour, and in turn the types of destinations shoppers are visiting and what they choosing to spend their money on."

Meanwhile, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), says the fall in visits to retail destinations marks little change to what has been a familiar story over the past few years.

She adds: "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."