UK store footfall decline continues in August, tourists are not enough

The latest footfall report from Ipsos Retail Performance (IPR) shows visitor traffic to non-food stores dropping 3.7% compared to a year ago and down 6.1% compared to July.

London and The South East felt the largest decline in August, particularly during the middle fortnight of the month when the holiday getaway season was at its peak. While that might have been expected, it was clearly a worse performance than a year ago and even the tourist boom that has filled London with Chinese, American, Russian and Middle eastern shoppers couldn’t drive the figures upwards.

In fact, footfall in every region dropped compared to July, with London and the South east down as much as 10.3%. But while much of that was to do with people being away on holiday, South West England and Wales benefitted from an increase in holidaymakers, performing the best of all UK regions. Not that the holidaymaker influx helped these areas into positive territory, but at least they only fell back 1.8% compared to the previous month.

To gather the figures for its Retail Traffic Index (RTI), the researcher looked at the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK, so the stats are a reliable reflection of what’s actually going on at retail.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence said: “Footfall is currently running in tramlines that are fixed between 3% and 4% lower than last year, providing a period of relative stability that has been greater than expected given the political and economic climes.”

He said that inflation has played a big part in the lower footfall with higher food prices meaning that spend has been switched from areas like fashion and homewares to essentials. But while overall inflation will peak soon and release the financial pressures on households, the benefits to the fashion sector could be cancelled out by fashion goods inflation continuing.

Interestingly, IPR also said August marked 10 years since the start of the credit crunch, but in-store shopping trips have dropped almost 27% over the decade as online shopping has gathered pace. High street retailers in Scotland and Northern Ireland have suffered the most in the last 10 years, with footfall dropping 32%. At the same time, internet shopping has gone from 2% of the total to 20%.

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