Bira concerned footfall drop is “worrying sign” for retailers

A typical High Street

Footfall figures declined significantly in April, with the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) saying the decrease showed “worrying signs” for UK high streets.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that total UK retail footfall had decreased by more than 7% in April, year on year.

More specifically, high street footfall is down by almost 7%, retail park footfall decreased by just over 6%, and shopping centre footfall had dropped by just over 7%.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said he was concerned about the decline in footfall, and the impact it could have on smaller retailers.

He commented: “Consumer confidence is still low and fragile and we need economic growth to bring people back to the high streets. The timing of Easter last year (April vs March this year) distorts the figures, but there are still some very worrying signs for the independent retailer.

However, Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC’s chief executive, also believes that the decrease could have been caused by several factors.

She explained: “While UK footfall was impacted by poor weather last month, this was artificially exacerbated by the comparison with 2023, when Easter was in April. All locations saw declines on the previous month, and nearly all major cities performed similarly poorly.

“However, there was good news in Edinburgh, where footfall was positive once again owing to the investment in local shopping locations in the Scottish capital over the past few years.

Following yesterday’s local elections, Goodacre believes reinvigorating high streets should be a priority for community leaders. He commented: “We also need the newly elected councillors and mayors to ensure that high streets are safe, attractive and accessible to everyone if we are to reverse the decline in footfall.”

Dickinson added: “It is now vital that elected councillors, mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners all play their part in designing the right planning, transport and neighbourhood safety policies to create thriving shopping destinations in communities across the country. These actions, locally and nationally, can contribute to boosting footfall and revitalising retail centres.”

In March, Goodacre was similarly concerned that high rates of retail store closures showed the high street is facing “unprecedented challenges”. However, more encouragingly, in January the BRC reported that shop price inflation was at its lowest point since May 2022.

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