According to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium, footfall in April was 0.1% lower than a year ago.
High streets reported the largest decline (falling 1.4%) while shopping centres experienced a 0.9% decline in footfall. Footfall in out-of-town locations fared best with a 4.0% increase year-on-year.
The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 10.6% in April 2014, a decrease from January’s rate of 11.0%.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Hopefully the flat footfall growth witnessed in April will prove short-lived, coming as it does after a favourable expansion the month before. Purchases of big ticket items such as furniture, gardening, DIY and materials for revamping the home performed well, off the back of a pick-up in the housing market.”
She added: “The decline in the vacancy rate is heartening; however every tenth shop still remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for an overhaul of the business rates system, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in property, create more jobs and help revive high streets.”
Springboard retail insights director Diane Wehrle added: “The 0.1% drop in footfall in April is disappointing following the increase of 1.8% in March, particularly as the month included the whole of Easter bank holiday period (in contrast with the split over two months last year) and benefited from mild weather, which tends to support activity in retail destinations.”
“However, while footfall in high streets and shopping centres fell annually, in out of town locations footfall continued to increase with a rise of 4 per cent (the fourth month in a row that footfall in retail parks has increased),” she said. “The disparity in performance between urban and out of town locations is at least in part due to rising house prices which tends to make consumers more enthusiastic about investing in home products, the greatest choice of which is found in retail parks.”