Good news for independent shops as footfall grows

UK retail footfall experienced its fastest growth last month since March 2014, according to new figures.

The latest survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found that retailers enjoyed footfall expansion of 1.3 per cent compared with the same period a year previously, marking the end of a six-month slump.

The BRC said the late Easter impacted the figures, but that the results offered “a break in the clouds.”

Changing retail patterns

The figures also suggested a shift in shopping patterns across the UK. Commenting on the survey, the BRC said: “Virtually all of the increase in footfall in March was derived from the post-5pm period, while footfall during the trading hours of 9am to 5pm dropped – by just 0.5 per cent in high streets, but much more significantly, by 7.1 per cent in shopping centres.

The change in visiting trends may also reflect a move away from the dominance of pure retail space towards a mix of retail and leisure.

The BRC said: “The worsening of consumer confidence and inflation from last year is likely to be constraining shoppers’ willingness to spend on retail goods.

“This all lends further evidence to the fact that retail is no longer the sole driver of footfall, with a strong leisure/hospitality offer being a critical element to ensure retail success.”

Growth of ‘social shopping’

The analysis follows news that Debenhams is set to shift its focus towards ‘social shopping’, combining retail with a leisure offering.

This week it was reported that the retail chain will install nail bars, blow-dry salons, and restaurants in some of its stores in an effort to draw consumers.

New Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher polled 16,000 shoppers to investigate what consumers wanted from department stores, before drafting a plan to turn the chain into a destination for shopping as a “fun leisure activity.”

The chain’s plans will see some stores remodeled and expanded, but will also result in the closure of 10 of its 176 stores and a number of warehouses.

Has your shop experienced better footfall this year? Let us know in the comments.

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