BRC Report: September – leaves aren’t the only things falling

  • The BRC has reported Footfall in September decreased by 1.2% year-on-year, the same decrease as in August, in line with the 3-month rolling average of -1.2% and below the 12-month rolling average of -0.4%.
  • High Street footfall declined by 2.2% in September, a smaller decline than August’s 2.6%. Shopping Centres showed a further decline of 1.0%, a slightly bigger decrease than in August which registered a decrease of 0.8%. Retail Parks still saw positive growth, but reduced to 1.1% from 1.6% in August, a 0.5 percentage point reduction.
  • The East was the only region to see increased growth in September, of 1.9%, and the only region to show High Street growth of 0.4 %. Also, this month is the tenth consecutive month of growth for this region.
  • East Midlands High Street Footfall saw a decelerated decline of 2.8% compared to last month decline of 4.9%; however, this is the seventh month of consecutive decline.
  • The East was the only region to show growth on the High Street of 0.4%.
  • Overall, the deepest decline in footfall in September occurred in Northern Ireland (4.3%) and the South West (2.4%). Greater London decline slowed to 0.9% from 2.0% in August.
  • Scotland recorded its biggest decline at 2.0 % since June 2016.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief-executive of the British Retail Consortium commented: “September’s footfall figures have a sense of unwelcome déjà vu around them. For the third consecutive month, most shopping destinations suffered a decline with retail parks continuing to buck the trend; attracting more visitors than the previous year and the opposite being true for high streets.

“There’s an urgent need to stall the growing number of retail locations, particularly in more vulnerable parts of the country, falling further and further behind by attracting shoppers to retail destinations with the right mix of products, experience and convenience. But this is where the conundrum lies for retailers: the growing cost of doing business leaves little to no wiggle room for investment in their store proposition.

“With September’s RPI expected to be at least four per cent meaning retailers’ business rates bills will surge by quarter of a billion pounds in 2018, the prospect of a further investment sapping rise is deeply worrying and will only serve to make things tougher on the high street. In his Budget next month, the Chancellor has an opportunity to offer local communities and high streets some much needed respite from risks to local shops and jobs by scrapping next year’s rise in business rates.”

Diane Wehrle, springboard marketing and insights director stated: “The drop in footfall in September of -1.2 per cent – the third consecutive monthly drop of more than -1 per cent – drove the three month rolling average down to -1.2 per cent from -0.4 per cent in August; by far the worst three month average since August last year.  September’s sales rose due to inflation, but the accelerating decline in footfall is a strong indicator of consumers railing back spending. Much is often made about the impact of weather, but with similar weather conditions to September 2016, this cannot be put forward as a driver.  Aggressive early season sales indicate retailers are spooked, and they will be on edge with the six-week countdown now on to the start of the festive shopping season.

And the decline in footfall doesn’t just mean reduced spending on retail goods; drops in footfall across all periods of the 24-hour day demonstrate that leisure and hospitality spending is also being curtailed. Indeed, in contrast to last month when the drop in footfall during day time hours was just half that post 5pm, in September the -1.3 per cent drop in footfall between 9am and 5pm was a third greater than the -1 per cent decline post 5pm.

Despite the overall decline in footfall, retail parks continue to increase their appeal with a rise of 1.1 per cent; the seventh consecutive month of footfall increase. The appeal of their accessibility and free parking, alongside an increasingly attractive proposition, comes to the fore when household budgets are squeezed through inflationary pressures and minimal wage rise.”

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