Sunless summer sinks footfall, says BRC

Footfall took a turn for the worse in August as the summer sun failed to materialise, says the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) data.

According to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor for August 2023, total UK footfall decreased by 1.6%, down from +1.8% in July.

High Street footfall decreased by 0.9% in August (YoY), down from +1.6% in July. Retail Parks footfall was unchanged at 0.0% in August (YoY), down from +1.4% in July. Shopping Centre footfall decreased by 3.8% in August (YoY), down from +0.2% in July.

Of the UK nations, Scotland saw a YoY rise in footfall, showing an increase of +0.4%. Conversely, England saw a YoY drop in footfall, a decrease of 1.3%. This was followed by Wales at -1.7% and Northern Ireland at -4.7%.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The impact was made worse when compared to last year’s heatwave, where many shoppers rushed to the shops to buy clothing, BBQs and other outdoor essentials. This month it was shopping centres that took the biggest hit, while high streets were also significantly down on last year.

“The rise in tourism, which returned to pre-Covid levels last month, did not help key shopping destinations. Government should re-introduce a tax-free shopping scheme to attract international shoppers, who are currently choosing other destinations. Unless action is taken, the UK remains the only European country without a VAT-free shopping scheme a scheme.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, commented: “An inclement August saw overall footfall dip marginally year-on-year after rallying in July, with dwindling shopper traffic not helped by nondescript weather, as well as the continued consumer caution and cost-of-living pressures that both shoppers – and retailers – have become increasingly accustomed to. And while total footfall was down, August showed some positive performance when it came to destination shopping with some travel and tourism hub cities, including Edinburgh, London, Liverpool and Manchester, showing positive upticks from ambient footfall boosted by tourism and school holiday staycations. 

“Similarly, while our data showed the number of store counts of shoppers to retail units within shopping centres and retail parks dipped last month, the number of visitors to those retail settings remained positive.  So, even if consumers are being more purposeful, visiting fewer stores during each shopping trip, the opportunity to benefit from that ambient footfall remains – the key will be how retailers can tap into that opportunity to turn passing trade into store visits and sales through meaningful store experiences and a retail offer that speaks to value.”

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