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April saw fastest footfall growth in 5 years, but how can retailers keep the momentum going?

Laura  Barnes
April saw fastest footfall growth in 5 years, but how can retailers keep the momentum going?

Footfall in April grew 1.6% – the fastest growth since March 2014, revealed the latest BRC-Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor.

This was well above the three-month average of 0.7%, which is the first positive three-month average since May 2014, and the highest since February 2012.

High Street footfall grew 2.3% in April and footfall to retail park destinations grew by 2.7%, however, shopping centre footfall fell by 0.6% in April.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 9.3% in April 2017, down from 9.4% in January 2017. This is largely due to sharp declines in Greater London and the East, said BRC. The high street vacancy rates in all other nations/regions rose in April.
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“The Easter holidays boosted family visits to shopping destinations in April, resulting in the fastest annual growth of footfall since March 2014. The inclusion of the holidays in this period will have distorted this figure but even looking beyond this, the picture over the last quarter has been largely positive,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of BRC.

“As has been the trend for some months now, high streets across most of the UK attracted the largest increase in visitors out of all shopping destinations. This translated into good news for stores too, which saw their fastest annual sales growth since January last year.”

Despite the good news about high street footfall, the BRC has predicted that consumer spending will slow as inflation climbs and reports that the twelve-month average shows a downward trend in online growth. “This points to the significance of retailers’ ongoing efforts to invest in the customer offer across all channels, as they contend with rising cost pressures and dampened consumer spend,” commented Dickinson.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, added that while the prominence of online retail is set to continue, “critical to a retailer’s success will be their ability to effectively combine online and offline sales activities”.

This is echoed by Paul Lewis, senior director of marketing at VoucherCodes.co.uk and RetailMeNot, who advises that retailers music be mindful of mobile-driven activity as well as footfall if they want to make the most of the upcoming bank holiday and summer season.

“Following news that footfall has remained positive throughout April, seeing the fastest growth in shopper number for years, retailers must ensure they are taking a smart approach to counter strenuous conditions for consumers, predicted by the BRC last week.

“Over April the Easter holidays boosted family visits to shopping destinations. However, there is still another opportunity for the high street ahead of the bank holiday at the end of the month for the digital and physical to work together and increase overall sales figures.

“Last year, VoucherCodes.co.uk, part of RetailMeNot discovered that mobile devices unlocked £200 million sales in-store, therefore as we get closer to the May half term and Summer holidays, retailers could be expecting a busy shopping weekend on the high street.

He concluded: “Shopping is no longer divided into the plain and simple clicks vs bricks – the lines are blurred now more than ever and consumers expect to switch between the two experiences seamlessly. Shoppers want to investigate competitor prices, check stock location and read consumer reviews all whilst standing right there within the store.”

Tags: Retail , footfall , online retail , high street , kpmg , brc , advice , RetailMeNot

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