Shopping centres and retail parks see visitors boost

The decline in footfall for retailers in the region is starting to ease, as growth at shopping centres outpaces the national average.

Crowds at the opening of Leeds Trinity

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard showed an overall drop of 0.3 per cent in the North and Yorkshire for March compared to the same period last year.

This compares to 0.2 per cent average growth across the UK.

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However, shopping centres such as Leeds Trinity and Sheffield’s Meadowhall softened the overall drop in shoppers, with 0.8 per cent growth in the region compared to 0.4 per cent nationally.

High street footfall saw a sharper decline than the rest of the country, down two per cent in the North and Yorkshire against a UK reduction of 1.4 per cent.

While out-of-town developments saw the strongest performance of all locations, the region’s growth was one percentage point behind the national average at 2.8 per cent.

Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at customer number analysts Springboard, told The Yorkshire Post that footfall is on the rise in the region, albeit at a slower pace than the national average.

Since November 2014, when there was a 2.3 per cent year-on-year reduction in the number of shoppers, the volumes have been progressively improving, she said.

Ms Wehrle said: “Negativity is reducing, though it is at a slower rate than the UK average.

“It is looking fairly positive. There is a move towards positive growth.”

While the North and Yorkshire failed to grow its footfall, it outperformed other regions, including Greater London and the South East, which saw a 0.7 per cent drop, and the West Midlands, which recorded a 1.7 per cent fall in numbers.

The national figures marked the first increase in footfall in a year and only the third increase in the last 20 months.

Last month, stores were buoyed by an earlier Easter, which saw key days of Good Friday and Easter Saturday fall in the March trading period, Ms Wehrle said.

The ongoing appeal of retail parks - particularly as they become more leisure-focused and act as click and collect points for online shoppers - also provided a boost, she said.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said the results were “encouraging”.

She said: “Out-of-town locations led the way in March with its 15 straight month of footfall growth.

“This story was echoed in shopping centres which posted its largest rise in shopper numbers since January 2014.

“Considering that this is only the second time in the last two years that we have seen positive footfall growth in this category, retailers can view these results as promising.”

However, Ms Dickinson admitted the positive boost may have been driven by the timing of the Bank Holiday weekend.