By Marcus Leach
Footfall between August and October was down 2.3% compared with the same period last year.
Footfall was down in all types of locations with high street and shopping centre measures falling by 2.5%, while out-of-town fell by 2.0%. Over the last 12 months high streets on average have seen the biggest drop in footfall of 2.7%.
The hardest hit locations were the West Midlands (-10.4%), Scotland (-9.0%) and Northern Ireland (-5.5%) which recorded the sharpest decreases in footfall. South East (2.9%), Wales (1.8%) and Greater London (-0.1%) held up the best.
The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.1% in October 2011 (high streets and shopping centres). Northern Ireland (12.9%), East Midlands (12.7%) and the North and Yorkshire (12.5%) recorded the highest vacancy rates.
August's riots were not widespread or long-lasting enough to have had any noticeable impact on the figures.
"In October, UK high streets saw the sharpest drop in footfall since last December's blizzards. A successful Christmas will be a lifeline for many retailers and they will be hoping that sort of disruption doesn't add to their woes this time around," Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said.
"Footfall is down on a year ago in all types of retail locations. The town centre vacancy rate hasn't worsened but is still alarmingly high. Consumer confidence remains weak with households' budgets caught between soaring utility and fuel bills and low wage growth. This toxic mix has left people with less money to spend this Christmas than last and that's stopping people shopping.
"To generate sales, retailers are offering lots of early promotions and running special events. Most people are determined to have their treats over Christmas if they possibly can. Retailers will be hoping the quiet quarter reflected in these figures is the result of households postponing their seasonal spending rather than cancelling it altogether."
Diane Wehrle, Research Director at Springboard, said there has been little change in vacancy rates throughout the UK.
"The latest quarterly results show that, with an overall drop of 0.1 percentage points, there has been very little change in vacancy rates across the UK," she said.
"In fact, Northern Ireland, Scotland and North Yorkshire have witnessed a notable decrease in vacancy rates, with Northern Ireland dropping an impressive 4.2 percentage points. It is likely that this is in response to the approaching Christmas shopping season as retailers look to open temporary stores in order to take advantage of what is typically a period of increased consumer expenditure.
"In light of the current wider economic issues it is of no surprise that shopper footfall fell annually by just over 2 per cent in the last quarter as consumers tightened their purse strings in the lead up to one of the most expensive times of the year. Another contributing factor to this decline was the mild weather; with the warmest October on record, shoppers have been putting off stocking up on the usual winter warmers."
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