March retail figures show more UK consumers are heading into out-of-town locations and fewer are shopping on the High Street.
High Streets were the only location to report a decline in footfall in March, falling 1.4 per cent. Meanwhile, footfall in out-of-town locations fared the best with a 3.8 per cent increase year-on-year, while shopping centres reported a 0.4 per cent rise.
Overall, footfall in the UK retail sector increased by 0.2 per cent, marking the first rise in a year and the third in 20 years.
March’s results were above the three month (Jan to March) average of minus 0.5 per cent, and the best overall result since March 2014, reports the British Retail Consortium and Springboard.
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: "Out-of-town locations led the way in March with its 15th straight month of footfall growth. This story was echoed in shopping centres which posted its largest rise in shopper numbers since January 2014. Considering that this is only the second time in the last two years that we have seen positive footfall growth in this category, retailers can view these results as promising. We can be very pleased overall with the month’s performance although it is important to note that these figures are largely driven by the timing of the Easter bank holiday."
Diane Wehrle, retail insight director at Springboard, added that the growth was due to factors such as trading days on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, which fell in March instead of April this year.
Wehrie also reckons the increasing attractiveness of retail parks counted towards the growth in shopper numbers, with features such as click and collect driving growth there.
Five regions and countries reported footfall above the UK average, with the East (3.4 per cent), Scotland (1.7 per cent) and the South West (1.4 per cent) reporting the greatest increases, all of which reported an improvement on February’s footfall rates.
Three regions reported a worsening picture in March compared with February. After three consecutive months of footfall growth the South East report a 3.6 percentage point drop in shoppers numbers, falling to minus 0.7 per cent. The West Midlands remained well below the UK average, reporting its fourth straight month of declining footfall while the East Midlands saw its footfall rate slow to 0.6 per cent.
Scotland and Northern Ireland reported their second consecutive month of positive footfall growth, up 1.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively. Footfall in Wales showed a further improvement from its recent low of minus 4.6 per cent in January, rising to minus 1.7 per cent in March.
The research recorded more than 60 million footfall counts per week at more than 600 counting locations, in 227 shopping sites across the UK.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) also recently reported that British shop prices had hit a record low, even though consumer confidence shot up to a near 13-year high.