Consumer confidence “yet to fully turn corner” as YoY retail footfall decline continues

ANNIE SPRATT ON UNSPLASH

This year’s early Easter failed to reverse the UK’s declining retail footfall trend, with physical shopper numbers decreasing by 1.3 per cent overall year-on-year (YoY) in March.

According to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data, high street footfall dropped by 1.5 per cent YoY while retail park visitor numbers fell by 3.5 per cent. Shopping centres, however, managed to entice a slight increase of 0.3 per cent more traffic compared to March 2023.

The figures were a vast improvement on the month before, with total UK footfall rising by 6.2 per cent on February. The biggest increase was seen on the high street, with 9.3 per cent more shoppers present than there was over the previous five weeks.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, comments: “An early, high-performing Easter helped put a spring in shoppers’ steps. This combined with a boost from Mother’s Day and ambient store visits from school holidays helped drive up shopper traffic in March to improve on what was a rather muted February. However, while retailers will have welcomed the seasonal uplift in store visits last month, the choppy nature of footfall recovery we’ve seen over the past few months indicates that consumer confidence is yet to fully turn a corner.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, adds: “Overall UK footfall declined in March as the wet weather kept shoppers indoors. Northern Ireland and Wales bucked the trend while shopping centres across the UK also saw a year-on-year increase in footfall, primarily driven by the start of the school holidays. The early Easter meant footfall rose across the UK in the final week of March, particularly in English cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool, but this was not enough to reverse the overall decline over the course of the month.

“As we draw closer to a general election, these figures highlight how vital it is for all parties to include a clear and comprehensive plan for growth in their manifestos. As the everywhere economy, retail serves all of us, providing the things we need as well as local jobs and investment. Instead of imposing burdensome costs on the industry, parties should focus on reforming business taxes and improving planning policy to help put life back into communities up and down the country.”