Wednesday, 24 August 2011 07:59

Towns face fight for customers

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Towns face fight for customers

FEWER shoppers are visiting high streets in market towns, suggests a survey.

High streets have seen the highest drop in footfall, with shopper numbers falling by 2.6% over the last 12 months.

The hardest hit locations were Wales (-9.2%), the West Midlands (-6.6%) and the East of England (-6.2%).

Greater London (1.6%), the South West (0.4%) and Scotland (0.2%) were the only locations that saw shopper numbers rise.

The figures are contained in the latest edition of the British Retail Consortium/Springboard-ATCM Footfall and Vacancies Monitor.

The survey covers the main centre in each region and a representative sample of secondary and smaller town centres. Across the country, more than one in 10 retail outlets are now empty.

The British Retail Consortium said the findings reflected high inflation and low wage growth.

Footfall in July rose for all types of shopping locations compared with June due to the combination of summer sales and school holidays, it said.

But overall footfall between May and July was 1% lower than the same period a year earlier.

Falling shopper numbers were driven by a 1.9% fall in people visiting out-of-town complexes, although people entering shopping centres rose by 0.6%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said all types of shopping locations saw reduced year-on-year footfall in July.

"Fewer people are shopping because households are facing high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about future job prospects.

"But that's slightly offset by hard-up customers spreading their spending over more but less costly shopping trips."

A 1% drop in shopper numbers compared with this time last year was actually an improvement on the 1.3% fall over the twelve months before that.

"This is the first time we've been able to publish footfall," said Mr Robertson.

"Vacancy figures in this level of detail and it shows stark differences in retail health between some of the UK's nations and regions."

Parts of the UK where public sector is a bigger proportion of the economy were most likely to be hit by a drop in customer spending due to job fears.

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