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BRC- Shopper numbers fall after Christmas boost

BRC- Shopper numbers fall after Christmas boost
Monday February 20 2012

Footfall in the three months November to January was 1.8% up on a year ago, better than the 2.3% fall in the previous three months.

Footfall improved in all types of locations, particularly out-of-town with a 3.1% increase, compared with high streets up 1.4% and shopping centres up 0.8%. Averaging over the last 12 months shows high streets have fared worst, with a 4.8% decline.

The hardest-hit locations in the past three months were Scotland (-8.5%) and the South West (-7.5%). Scotland was also one of the worst in the previous three months. Wales (11.4%), Northern Ireland (7.2%) and the South East (7.1%) held up the best.

The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.1% in January 2012 (high streets and shopping centres), unchanged from October 2011. Northern Ireland (14.1%), the North and Yorkshire (12.9%) and East Midlands (12.4%) recorded the highest vacancy rates.

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: "The lift in shopper numbers for the quarter is almost entirely down to a strong Christmas. And December looks deceptively good because it's being compared with the heavy snowfall which affected the end of 2010 and kept many people at home then.

"At the start of 2012 footfall numbers dipped again, showing underlying caution hasn't changed. Worries about personal finances and job security are putting people off shopping. Although inflation has started to ease, costs are still rising faster than wages. Any significant change in consumer sentiment is going to take time.

"The rate of town centre vacancies has stayed constant across the UK as a whole but the condition of too many high streets is still bleak. The 5.6 per cent rise in business rates due in April would be another major blow. The Chancellor has the opportunity to recognise how much town centres matter to local jobs, economies and communities by sharply reducing the scale of that rise."