We’ve heard some very downbeat assessments of May’s retail performance in the UK recently so what does the latest report bring? Well, the news is a bit better. According to specialist footfall tracker Springboard, overall footfall managed a 0.3% rise last month.
Not over-impressive really, but at least it wasn’t a fall. And there was good news for high streets where footfall rose 1.1%, as well as for retail parks where it rose 1.2%. Shopping centres, by contrast, fell 2.1%, the decline accelerating from April’s 0.7% dip.
Given that footfall fell from February to April and May saw it rising, should we be popping champagne corks? Not according to Springboard and the British Retail Consortium, because the 0.3% figure actually conceals some bad news.
Now for the catch…
For a start, footfall may have risen but actual sales were down. “With total footfall figures up and high streets seeing a reversal in fortunes, today’s figures offer some respite from the relentless downward trend we’ve seen building in recent months,” said BRC chief Helen Dickinson.
“However, we know from our recent data that it’s online, rather than stores, that has driven May’s sales upturn. Footfall up and store sales down gives credence to the trend of an increasing use of the high street for leisure activities and the researching of purchases made online either later or on the move through mobile devices.
And Springboard’s marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: “May’s modest increase does not necessarily mark the start of a positive trend just yet. The figures show the month’s footfall increase emanated from a 4.7% rise in the first week of the month stimulated by the May bank holiday weekend. For the rest of the month, footfall dropped by an average of 1.1% in the remaining three weeks.”
Oh dear. It seems that even in retail parks, the destination type with the most consistent long-term increase in activity, footfall rose in the first two weeks of the month by an average of 2.9% but fell 0.5% over the rest of the month.
It was interesting though that once again, Springboard’s time of day data showed that the ‘golden hours’ of 5pm to 8pm delivered the best footfall for UK high streets. It seems the period when people get home from work and pop down to the convenience store is becoming ever more important.
Well, at least that’s something because there’s not a lot to smile about in UK retail at present. What with the Brexit uncertainty and the endless rain…