By Daniel Hunter
Footfall in February was 0.8% higher than a year ago, an improvement on the 4.6% decline in January. These figures support the recent uplift in retail sales reported by the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, where total sales growth reached a three year high.
Footfall improved on high streets with a 2.7% increase compared with a year earlier, the strongest growth since December 2011. Footfall in shopping centres (-1.6%) and out-of-town (-1.5%) locations fell; however, this is a significant improvement on January's figures.
"This is a respectable result, which tallies with the signs of gradual improvement shown in our February sales figures," Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said.
"Even though overall footfall is only marginally up on last year, the signs are that conversion rates were good. New ranges gave shoppers a spring in their step and end-of-season promotions also proved popular.
"Compared against the widespread regional variations seen in January, it's really encouraging to see improvements in footfall across the board. However, the link between the number of shops and shoppers is plain to see; the lowest footfall was in the North and Yorkshire, which has England's highest vacancy rate.
"February 2013 was generally milder than the snow-hit month we saw the previous year, which is a surefire factor behind High Streets posting their best result since December 2011. This is definitely the standout story for February, but it's only the third time in twelve months that high street footfall rates have edged over zero. Retailers will be hoping that Wednesday's Budget delivers concrete measures to build on this boost and put more money in people's pockets."
Diane Wehrle, Research Director at Springboard, said: "Footfall on the high street increased annually in February by 2.7%, which is the first annual increase since November last year, and the largest increase in a single month since December 2011. Conversely footfall in shopping centres and retail parks declined annually in February by 1.6% and 1.5%.
"The disparity could be explained by the recent decline in multiples being primarily located in shopping centres and retail parks, with high streets offering a wider diversity.
"The half term week was spread over the last two weeks of the month this year compared with just the third week last year, and whilst the fourth week recorded an annual increase of 2.6% for shopping centres, its benefit was countered by a year-on-year decline of 7.3% in the third week of the month.
"For the high street, one swallow does not make a summer, but these results might hint at the green shoots of recovery, or at least some stabilisation in the current environment."
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