high street shops

Footfall on the high street has shown signs of a post-referendum bounce back, according to figures released today by the BRC.

The number of shoppers in high street locations was up 0.3% year on year in July, compared with the 3.7% fall in June.

The figures, said the BRC, showed there were “reasons to be cheerful” and suggested the doom forecast by some analysts after the Brexit vote might be misplaced.

However, the numbers also show retailers are still facing major issues both on the high street and in other locations.

The national town centre vacancy rate rose to 10.1%, up from 9.6% in April 2016.

Meanwhile, footfall in retail park locations decreased for the second consecutive month, down 0.3% year on year, while shopping centres saw footfall down 2% in July, though this was better than the 2.3% decline in June.

Overall footfall in July was 0.4% down on a year ago, better than the 2.8% fall in June.

“Today’s figures remain lacklustre with total footfall down again,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

“However, retailers will have taken comfort from the fact that recent BRC figures show that total sales grew over the same period. Given the decline in footfall is slowing and high street locations actually reported an increase in shopper numbers of 0.3%, some retailers in some locations may have some reasons to be cheerful.”

However, she warned that of greater cause for concern was the rise in shop vacancy rates.

“The increase in the number of empty shops is an unwelcome reminder of the heavy burden of property costs. After a long run of shop vacancies being below 10%, seeing them rise over that threshold once again will be a bitter disappointment to many,” she explained.

“If property costs in general, and business rates in particular, continue ever upwards, we should all be concerned about the impact on our local communities up and down the country.”

However, Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said the footfall figures showed a “swing-back” in activity levels since the referendum.

“We see the dust settling, as expected, with more folk becoming used to the idea that the sun does indeed rise after the referendum. Indeed, as normality prevails, it is more mundane matters such as the weather that are influencing the shopping patterns and performances of Britain’s retailers.”