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April sees increased footfall but new high for shop vacancies

Footfall in April was 1.0% higher than a year ago, an improvement on the 5.2% fall in March according to the latest BRC/Springboard Footfall & Vacancies Monitor for April.

This is the strongest performance since December 2011 when footfall increased 5.7%.

Additionally, the improved weather seen in April had an impact on footfall. High streets reported the greatest rise (3.4%), the strongest performance since December 2011, followed by out-of-town (0.3%). Footfall in shopping centres fell 3.0% in April, its worst performance since January 2013.

The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.9% in April 2013, up from 10.9% in January 2013, the highest rate since the survey began in July 2011.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: "It's a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK, with some regions like the South West seeing a significant leap in empty shop numbers. With high streets topping the agenda for many now, there's a real opportunity here to seize the moment and stem the tide of further closures. Comparatively small steps to tackle deep-rooted issues such as parking, accessibility and rising business costs could make a huge difference to the health of town centres."

"At least there's some cheer on offer in the footfall figures, driven by a respectable showing for high streets, but this compares against a very rainy April 2012, when bad weather left a lot of shoppers running for cover. The unsettled weather at the start of the month seems to have created pent-up demand, which brought many of us out to shop when more spring-like weather finally made an appearance."

"As we saw in our April sales figures, there are some very tentative signs of conditions improving, but the trading environment remains volatile. Retailers will be hoping that warmer weather and a Bank Holiday boost help May to usher in better news."

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