Britain’s high streets suffered last month as shoppers continued to turn to out-of-town locations. High streets experienced a 1.6pc decline in footfall, while footfall in shopping centres fell by 2.6pc.
In comparison, trips to out-of-town locations increased by 1.5pc compared to the same time a year ago, the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard monitor revealed.
The BRC said the rise was a sign of “strong” consumer confidence, as it suggested that more consumers were happier to splash out on big ticket items, particularly furniture.
Out-of-town locations are also attracting more click-and-collect customers – people that buy online and collect in store – because they often offer plentiful and free parking.
There were also significant regional variations, with footfall up around 1pc in London and the east but down 4.6pc in Wales. Scotland also reported its first decline in footfall since June 2014, down 3pc.
Online sales of non-food products rose 11.7pc last month, boosted by the number of people surfing for post-Christmas bargains.
Shoes were the most popular items bought online. Over £1 in every £3 of footwear purchases was spent online.
Shoes are the most popular items bought online
One in ten shops are empty in Britain’s town centres, a figure that has remained steady for the last couple of years.
However, Diane Wehrle, Retail Insights Director at Springboard, said the number could soon rise.
“The number of retail leases that are due to expire over this year suggests that this could rise further over the coming months - particularly as consumers are now demanding discounts, which squeeze margins and adversely impact profitability and long term business sustainability.’’
The BRC added that while many local councils are working hard on initiatives to inspire high streets, there is much more to be done.
“Spreading best practice - such as supporting pop up shops, increasing digital connectivity and focusing on general town centre improvement – is crucial if we are to drive down a vacancy rate that remains stubbornly above 10pc,” said Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s director general.
Elizabeth Anderson - Telegraph.com