Warmer weather gives footfall a lift but Brexit uncertainty still hampers spending

‘We’re in the midst of a no splurge culture’: Brexit holds shoppers back from spending despite warmer weather lifting the High St

  • Shopper numbers rose in March, according to Springboard and BRC 
  • But this is compared to last year when snow and frost swept through the UK
  • The report claims that shoppers are still nervous about making big purchases 

More people visited UK High Streets last month than they did in March 2018, but shoppers are still putting off expensive ‘big ticket’ purchases, a report has found.

The total number of people visiting shops across the UK rose 1.4 per cent in March, according to Springboard and the British Retail Consortium. 

Footfall on high streets picked up by 2.5 per cent year-on-year, while trips to retail parks edged up 1.5 per cent. 

Footfall: Comparatively bright weather boosted the number of people visiting UK high streets and retail parks in March, Springboard and the BRC said

Footfall: Comparatively bright weather boosted the number of people visiting UK high streets and retail parks in March, Springboard and the BRC said

But the findings were ‘heavily influenced’ by the weather, said BRC boss Helen Dickinson. Temperatures were much milder this March than during the same period last year when shoppers were contending with the so called Beast from the East.

Indeed, the report says the uplift should be regarded as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ relating to last year’s dramatic 6 per cent footfall slump in March rather than a reverse in fortunes for Britain’s retailers.

Higher footfall has not translated into higher spending, the report added, with shoppers putting off splurging on expensive items while uncertainty around Brexit rumbles on.

‘The result clearly indicates that we continue to be in the midst of a no splurge culture,’ said Springboard’s marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle.

‘With consumer confidence continuing to languish, shoppers are clearly focussed on prudence,’ she said.

While the comparatively warm weather boosted high streets and retail parks, visits to shopping centres fell 1 per cent last month, marking the 24th consecutive month of decline.

Visitor numbers to UK shopping centres continued to fall - marking 2 years in decline

Visitor numbers to UK shopping centres continued to fall – marking 2 years in decline

Dickinson said: ‘Shopping centres continue to suffer. It is vital that all different shopping locations are fit for the future, offering the mix of retail and experience-led opportunities that generate the necessary footfall to succeed.’

The findings follow last week’s collapse of Debenhams into pre-pack administration. 

The department store chain crumbled under the weight of its debts and subsequently fell into the hands of its lenders, who are now said to be pursuing the closure of around 50 stores. 

Debenhams is the latest high profile chain to fall into administration. The chain agreed a deal with its lenders and all stores remain open for now

Debenhams is the latest high profile chain to fall into administration. The chain agreed a deal with its lenders and all stores remain open for now

Commenting on the latest footfall numbers, AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: ‘The key test for the retail sector will be April’s performance as the Brexit deadline delay to 31 October may have encouraged consumers to go ahead and make larger purchases, should they have previously been holding off pending the Brexit outcome.’  

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Markets | Mail Online

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