High streets show best figures in seven months

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Retailers’ hopes of shoppers returning to the high street could be boosted by the latest footfall figures as they count down to Christmas.

The UK total retail footfall in September was 0.2% lower than a year ago - but this is an improvement on the 1.6% fall in August, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard footfall monitor.

This figure - taking in high streets, retail parks and shopping centres - was above the July to September three-month average of -0.9%.

High streets and shopping centres reported a decline in footfall of 1.4% and 1.3% respectively - but this is best performance by high streets for seven months, excluding Easter distortions.

Footfall in retail park locations increased 4% year-on-year - the highest figure since January 2014, again excluding Easter distortions.

Three regions reported footfall growth in September - East Midlands, Greater London and the South East, while all other regions and countries reported footfall below the UK average.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “The overall decline in shopper numbers across the UK now stands at 0.2% - a marked improvement from last August’s 1.6% fall.

“UK High Streets are showing their best figures for seven months with the footfall decline slowing to just 1.4%. This may offer a small crumb of comfort to retailers who will be hoping that this signals the end of shoppers deserting the high street and raise hopes of their return, especially with Christmas on the horizon.

“Making high streets more attractive for customers will be crucial in the countdown to Christmas and beyond. Where greater local decision making can support this it will be welcomed.

“However if greater devolution only serves to push up costs and confuse customers then this would do more harm than good at a critical time for the industry.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “The drop in footfall of 0.2% across the UK was the best year-on-year performance since March, and the second best month over the last 17 months.

“Perfect seasonal weather is vital to high street fashion sales, with over a quarter of retailers we asked (26.8%) confirming that they brought forward store drops of Autumn/Winter stock this season.

“Together with the additional bank holiday trading day, this boosted overall sales of outerwear and accessories, including footwear.”