Wet weather drives shoppers away
3rd August 2023

Wet weather drives shoppers away: High streets suffer from one of the wettest months on record as footfall plunges for the first July in 14 years

  • Footfall across UK retail destinations falls 0.3% between June and July this year
  • High Streets are worst affected with a month-on-month footfall decrease of 1.7%

The number of people going out to the shops in July dropped for the first time in 14 years as Britain endured heavy rain, rail strikes and the cost-of-living crisis.

Footfall across UK retail destinations was down by 0.3 per cent between June and July this year – compared to a rise of 3.7 per cent between May and June.

Concerning data released by retail analysis firm MRI Springboard today found High Streets were worst affected with a month-on-month footfall decrease of 1.7 per cent.

But there was better news for retail parks which saw a footfall increase by 0.7 per cent in July compared to June, while it was 1.7 per cent up in shopping centres.

Experts put the overall drop down to ‘ever rising interest rates, rain and ongoing rail disruption’ and said the demand fall is set to continue into this month and next.

Shoppers with umbrellas walk along Regent Street in London’s West End in the rain yesterday

Umbrellas rest on cardboard for a rough sleeper on a wet Oxford Street in London yesterday

Empty tracks at London Paddington train station on July 29 during the latest RMT rail strike

MRI Springboard said it was the first July since it started publishing data in 2009 that overall footfall was lower than in June. 

How retail footfall is changing across Britain

Overall footfall

  • 2023 v 2022: +2.1%
  • July 2023 v June 2023: -0.3%
  • 2023 v 2019: -12.1%

High Streets footfall

  • 2023 v 2022: +1.2%
  • July 2023 v June 2023: -1.7%
  • 2023 v 2019: -15.5%

Shopping centres footfall

  • 2023 v 2022: +4.1%
  • July 2023 v June 2023: +1.7%
  • 2023 v 2019: -14.9%

Retail parks footfall

  • 2023 v 2022: +1.8%
  • July 2023 v June 2023: +0.7%
  • 2023 v 2019: -1.6%

Vacancy rate footfall

  • July 2023: 10.9%
  • April 2023: 11.0%

Data provided by MRI Springboard 

It also said this was the first month-on-month decrease since March this year, when consumers deferred shopping trips until Easter which was then followed by a rise of 7.2 per cent from March to April.

The firm added that over the decade to 2019, the average month-on-month rise in footfall from June to July was 3.4 per cent.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director for MRI Springboard, said: Whilst we have the experience of footfall bouncing back from a negative position in March to a positive one in April, it is not anticipated that this will necessarily be replicated in August this year.

‘The August bank holiday is a less significant public holiday than Easter which is what drove additional footfall in April, and the impact of the increase in interest rates, with the Bank of England set to announce on Thursday further increases, is clearly now starting to be felt.

‘With the fourth quarter of the year looming, and many holidays either paid for or taken, it is inevitable that consumers’ attention will now turn towards planning for Christmas spending, which may well dampen footfall further in the latter part of the summer.’

The firm added that the gap from the 2019 footfall level widened to a 12.1 per cent fall across all retail destinations, with the most significant effect being felt by high streets where the gap widened to 15.5 per cent down in July from 10.3 per cent down in June.

It said that in shopping centres the gap to 2019 widened marginally from 13.3 per cent down in June to 14.9 per cent down in July. Meanwhile in retail parks it widened to 1.6 per cent down in July from 0.04 per cent down in June.

The company records more than 600million footfall counts per week at 6,637 counting points in 3,350 shopping locations.

Consumer Prices Index inflation stood at 7.9% in June, but this was down from 8.7% in May

The Bank of England hiked interest rates by another 0.5 percentage points last month 

Commenting on falling demand, David Fox, founder and chief executive of Tampopo restaurants – which has four outlets in Manchester, two in London and 160 staff – told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’ve definitely seen a dampening down. 

READ MORE Britain’s crumbling storefronts: UK loses 6,000 retail outlets in five years amid Covid lockdowns and ‘crippling business rates’ – with the North and Midlands worst affected

‘Footfall at a shopping centre that I’m in, the Trafford Centre, has been negative for the last three months and there’s definitely been a slowdown, that’s an example, and that’s flown through to what’s going through the tills which has proved challenging.

‘The last three months have been the worst it’s been since the pandemic, with negative footfall in some places. There’s been negative footfall in a lot of high streets or shopping centres and I can verify that in terms of the shopping centre that I’m in.’

It comes as the Bank of England is poised to lift UK interest rates to fresh 15-year highs as its long-running fight to control the rising cost-of-living continues.

But signs that inflation has turned a corner have fuelled hopes that policymakers could soon take their foot off the gas over rate rises.

Most economists expect the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to lift the base rate by 0.25 percentage points on Thursday, taking it to 5.25 per cent.

The last time it stood at 5.25 per cent was in March 2008.

Jane Foley, managing director and head of FX strategy at Rabobank, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I would certainly think it’s going to be 25 basis points, and actually we’ve just heard from David (Fox) plenty of evidence to suggest that there is already the pain in the high streets. 

‘People are beginning to change their demand habits. Interest rate rises that we’ve seen are beginning to impact and I think it’s that sort of evidence which will sway the Bank of England to go for 25 rather than 50 basis points today.’

Last month was the sixth wettest July in Britain on record and the wettest since 2009, with 140.1mm (5.5in) of rain falling – 170 per cent of the average amount. 

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