Consumer confidence boosted footfall levels for out-of-town retail in January, though overall retail footfall was down 1.2% year on year, the BRC Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor has revealed.
“It has been heartening to see that footfall is up for out-of-town retail destinations,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson. “This reflects strong consumer confidence – more of us are happier to splash out on big ticket items, particularly furniture, which we usually travel out of town to view and buy.”
With shoppers driving up out-of-town footfall 1.5% year on year, January figures were even above the 1.2% three month average.
There was also some good news for high street footfall levels, which though were still declining, slowed to -1.6% in January, down from the -1.8% in December.
However shopping centres were hardest hit, seeing footfall at -2.8% year on year, way above the -1.5% three month average.
Dickinson said: “[this] is further evidence of the impact our changing shopping habits. January is traditionally strong for online sales and this year was no exception. This has undoubtedly impact on footfall for high streets and shopping centres. retailers will be looking closely at these figures to help them harness the growth of e-tailing to drive consumers to their bricks and mortar stores. Click & Collect services are excellent example of how this is happening right now and innovations in this area are set to continue for some time to come.”
The latest BRC Springboard report also recorded an increasing vacancy rate in the UK, up to 10.4% in January from 10.3% in October.
Dickinson said this was a “cause for concern” and that though the BRC welcomed the government pledge to review business rates, the review will need to be wide in scope and seek radical solutions.
“Spreading best practice, such as supporting pop up shops, increasing digital connectivity and focusing on general town centre improvement, is crucial if we are to drive down a vacancy rate that remains stubbornly above 10%,” she said.