Sixth monthly fall

Early Easter fails to halt slide in shopper footfall

Retail, Multrees Walk
Shopper numbers fell in March (pic: Terry Murden)

Retailers failed to benefit from the early Easter holiday and Mother’s Day as footfall in March fell for a sixth consecutive month.

On the brighter side, the 0.9% decline in year-on-year visits to Scottish shops meant it was the least-worst monthly figure since November, and was almost half the fall across England which was 1.6% down.

According to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data, total footfall for the five weeks from 25 February to 30 March fell by 1.3% from 6.2% in February.

The high street (down 1.5%) and retail parks (down 3.5%) were the worst hit, while shopping centre traffic rose 0.3%, almost certainly because of the wet weather.

In Scotland, footfall in Edinburgh increased by 2.9% (YoY), while Glasgow decreased by 1.8% (YoY).

Northern Ireland and Wales saw traffic increase, by 4% and 0.4% respectively.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The early Easter and school holidays buoyed foot-traffic, providing a flicker of hope for Scottish stores as Spring approaches.

“The improvement was felt across all retail destinations. Glasgow had its best performance since last July, and Edinburgh recorded a solid month of footfall growth.

“Shopper footfall and the health of our broader economy is highly dependent on what happens to consumer spending.

“The continued growth in real wages and easing shop price inflation should help support demand, as should the council tax freeze and cuts in employee national insurance contributions. However, whether this translates into a greater propensity to spend in stores remains to be seen.

“At the same time, retailers themselves have to balance this against their own outgoings which continue to spiral notably with the above-inflation hike in property taxes.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Overall UK footfall declined in March as the wet weather kept shoppers indoors.

“The early Easter meant footfall rose across the UK in the final week of March, particularly in English cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool, but this was not enough to reverse the overall decline over the course of the month.

“As we draw closer to a general election, these figures highlight how vital it is for all parties to include a clear and comprehensive plan for growth in their manifestos.

“As the everywhere economy, retail serves all of us, providing the products we need as well as local jobs and investment. Instead of imposing burdensome costs on the industry, parties should focus on reforming business taxes and improving planning policy to help put life back into communities up and down the country.”  

There will be hope in the sector that the cut to national insurance contributions and rise in the state pension and national living wage will help boost consumer confidence.

See also

Uniqlo ready to inject confidence into Princes St

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