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UK footfall remained 34.8% down year-on-year in August despite the reopening of shops and the ending of lockdown as empty offices mean footfall is not returning to towns and city centres.

The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for August found that overall UK footfall decreased by 34.8% in the month, which was a marginal 7.3 percentage point improvement from July. However, it remains below the longer-term 12-month average decline of 27.6%.

Footfall on high streets plunged by 41.7% year on year – with retail footfall figures falling below shopping centres for the first time since April 2018.

Shopping Centre footfall declined by 37.4% year on year, which was more than a 10 percentage point improvement from July.

Retail Parks saw footfall decrease by 11.1% year on year as wider open spaces, a higher proportion of supermarkets and larger stores quicker to reopen helped to shelter such locations from a steeper declines.

Northern Ireland saw the shallowest shopping centre footfall decline of all regions, with -13.2%. Wales saw a shallower rate of decline than the UK average, with -32.4% but Scotland was some way behind with -42.8%.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson commented: “Footfall remained well below normal levels in August. In-store discounting and demand for school wear helped lure some customers back to the shops, but with many office blocks still empty and much of the public avoiding public transport, footfall is not returning to towns and city centres and this is having a devastating effect on the local economies in these areas.

“While many businesses have been investing in making workplaces safer, we are unlikely to see significant growth in footfall while government advice remains to ‘work from home if you can.’ Unless this changes, more should be done to encourage people to travel and reassure them that public transport is safe. Government should also recognise that, while footfall is so low, many businesses will not be able to manage their fixed costs – rent & business rates in particular – and unnecessary job losses and store closures will follow.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant – EMEA of ShopperTrak, added: “Footfall in the UK continued to improve throughout August, with a marked upturn in the final week. This can in part be attributed to the last days of the “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign, and Back To School shopping. Retail parks continued to lead the way for recovery, with shopping centres catching up, while high streets are still lagging. With many people still working from home, high streets in many major cities desperately await the return of tourist and office commuter footfall.

“August also saw the UK recovery climb to second amongst its European peers, behind France. Whilst this is encouraging to see, retailers are dealing with traffic levels that are still around a third lower than the same time last year. As retailers prepare to ramp up stock and promotions for the ‘golden quarter’ this will be a defining period for many retail businesses. “

Morning update

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has edged up slightly 0.2% to 5,863.5pts.

Risers so far this morning include Bakkavor, recovering 7.2% to 52p, McBride, up 5.2% to 61p and C&C Group, up 3.2% to 212.5p.

The day’s fallers include Stock Spirits, up 4% to 216.4p, Science in Sport, up 2.7% to 31.2p, Glanbia, up 1.8% to €9.73 and Domino’s Pizza Group, up 1.6% to 343.4p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 plunged 1.5% back to 5,850.8pts yesterday as a reversal of the US tech stock rally hit UK trading sentiment towards the end of the day.

Bakkavor plunged 14.9% back to 48.5p yesterday and Ocado fell 6% to 2,372p as its partnership with M&S kicked off with some teething troubles.

Other heavy fallers included AG Barr, down 8.8% to 383p, Applegreen, down 4.6% to 315p, Reckitt Benckiser, down 4% to 7,238p, McBride, down 3.3% to 58p, FeverTree, down 3% to 2,033p and Greencore, down 2.6% to 118.9p.

B&M European Value Retail dropped 2.8% to 461.5p on the day its elevation to the FTSE 100 was confirmed.

Defying the wider market slump were SSP Group, which rose 7.6% to 259.4p, Coca-Cola European Partners, up 5.1% to €37.20, Compass Group, up 3.7% to 1,272p, Glanbia, up 3.7% to €9.90 and WH Smith, up 2.5% to 1,237p.