Retail footfall flat for April but demand for premises up
According to the latest BRC/SPRINGBOARD Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, footfall in April was 0.1% lower than a year ago, down on the 1.8% rise in March.
High streets reported the largest decline, falling 1.4%, substantially down from the 2.6% rise in March while shopping centres experienced a 0.9% decline in footfall.
Footfall in out-of-town locations fared the best with a 4.0% increase year-on-year. Northern Ireland reported the greatest increase in regional footfall, up 12.8% 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%.
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: "Hopefully the flat footfall growth witnessed in April will prove short-lived, coming as it does after a favourable expansion the month before.
"As we saw with our retail sales data released last week, 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. Out of town retail locations have directly benefited as a result, whilst footfall on our high streets has dipped reflecting weaker sales of clothing, footwear and beauty products."
"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."