Calm before the Christmas storm for retail world

Footfall in October decreased by 2 per cent year-on-year, the lowest rate since the EU referendum when it decreased by 2.3 per cent, according to the BRC - Springboard figures

This figure was below the three-month rolling average of -1.4 per cent and the 12-month rolling average of -0.5 per cent.

The East was the only region that showed growth in October, a rise of 1 per cent. In fact this is the eleventh consecutive month of growth for the region.

The sharpest decline in footfall in October was in Northern Ireland (-6.5 per cent), Scotland (-3.3 per cent) and South West (-3.1 per cent).

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director of Springboard said, "October delivered a black trading cloud ahead of the Christmas sales storm; not only was the -2 per cent drop in footfall the worst result for October since 2013 when it declined by -2.9 per cent, but it was also higher than the result for the month of October in subsequent years which ranged between -0.8 per cent and -0.2 per cent. The signs of the gathering cloud have been evident in footfall trends for a while; with the rolling three-month average dropping to -1.4 per cent, the lowest since June last year.

Helen Dickinson, Chief-Executive of British Retail Consortium said, "All shopping destinations saw shopper footfall ease back in October, which mirrors the month’s paltry sales performance.

“The picture improved slightly for town centre vacancies over the last quarter, but this is to be expected in the lead up to Christmas as landlords are inclined to offer more flexible short-term lets to prop up their rental income over the festive period. Yet nearly one in 10 retail premises still lies empty as the burden of business rates continues to stifle investment in new or refurbished stores in town centres and in less economically viable locations.

“Without decisive action from the Chancellor in his upcoming Budget then retailers face a stark £270 million leap in their rates bill from April; money which could otherwise be invested in stores and digital innovation. If reports over recent days of a potential cap on this increase come true, it would be a hugely welcome first step towards a reformed and more financially sustainable rates system over the years ahead.”

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