Oct 17, 2016
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UK footfall drops as shoppers choose dining over fashion

Oct 17, 2016

The devastation that September’s warmer weather wreaked on the UK fashion sector has become even clearer with a new footfall report that shows shopping centres suffering more than other retail locations last month.

Specialist footfall tracker Springboard said today that while its figures show overall footfall down just 0.9% year-on-year last month, visitor traffic to shopping centres fell 2.5%. That was worse than the three-month average of 2.1%.

While giant shpping centres like this get plenty of investment, many UK malls need a revamp - Hammerson

Shopping centres, which tend to have a larger selection of fashion stores, have lost out to high streets that are often more food and ‘experience’-focused and to retail parks that have themselves seen good footfall growth for much of the year.

The news came after a number of other reports from the CBI, British Retail Consortium and Ipsos Retail showed fashion suffering more than many other sectors last month due to warm weather denting interest in cool weather clothing and accessories.

Springboard said that the high street footfall decline was only 0.5% last month as they continued to benefit from the trend for consumers to make more frequent post-5pm visits to convenience stores and restaurants. Meanwhile retail parks, with the extra attraction of dining and entertainment services, did well to register flat footfall, better than August’s 0.4% decline.

Springboard added that the overall fall was no surprise given that it was one of the hottest Septembers this century, with the warmer weather “undoubtedly impacting new season fashion shopping.” 

However, it also highlighted another worrying trend for the fashion sector with a long-term slide in mall sales that could be partly caused by reduced investment. Springboard’s marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said this has meant many shopping centres “have become tired and in need of an uplift” in order to become compelling retail destinations for shoppers.

Wehrle told Fashion Network that shopping centres lack diversity in their offer as they have traditionally focused on fashion. This has hurt them as there “has been a move from buying fashion product to experiences.”

She also said that in order to boost footfall to their core fashion tenants, “shopping centres need to broaden their offer and be more flexible and more open to new types of tenant.”

With many fashion stores sourcing product in US dollars, Wehrle added that as we move into winter trading and Christmas over the coming months, currency conversion rates will hit a number of brands and stores.

She added that ‘living wage’ costs will continue to pressure profits, especially at a time when stores increase staff levels for the Christmas shopping season.

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