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Heatwave stems high-street footfall decline

The balmy summer weather gave a slim boost to footfall on UK high streets during July, but retail destinations lost out as a result of the heat.

Overall footfall figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard show that footfall in July fell by 0.8% compared with the same time last year. While high streets recorded a 0.3% rise and the third month of consecutive growth, retail parks and shopping centres experienced footfall drops of 0.5% and 3.4% respectively.

These drops were attributed to the summer heat deterring shoppers from venturing to retail destinations.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “Inevitably, the hot weather in July impacted visits to retail destinations as the attraction of external environments and non-retail experiences lured consumers away from stores.”

Despite the modest sun-fuelled increase for high streets, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, stressed that the market remains challenging for retailers and renewed calls for a freeze on business rates.

“The hot, dry weather in July turned consumers’ attentions to eating, drinking and enjoying the outdoors. That provided a small lift for high streets as shoppers popped out to grab food, drink and fans to keep cool. However, the heat sapped shoppers’ stamina for longer trips with both retail parks and shopping centres seeing footfall sink,” she commented. “Aside from short-term weather impacts, there’s no escaping the fact that retail is changing. With fewer people visiting physical stores and fewer purchases being made there, at the same time as costs are going up year on year, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing many retailers reduce their store portfolios. As shops close, we need new businesses to emerge to reinvent the nation’s high streets. But that cannot happen if the burden of business rates they face continues to rise year on year, which is why we’re calling for a freeze in business rates in the Chancellor’s next Budget.

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