By Daniel Hunter

The decline of retail footfall eased slightly in July, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Footfall was down by 0.6% compared with July last year, a slight improvement from the annual fall of 0.7% seen in June.

It spelled more worrying news for the high street, as footfall fell by 1.7%, the biggest decline. Shopping centres saw a 0.5% decline after the growth of 1.2% in June.

Out-of-town locations like retail parks saw the only rise in footfall in July, reporting a 1.7% increase.

Scotland saw a 4.4% rise in retail footfall, by far the biggest in the UK. On the other end of the scale, Northern Ireland saw it fall by 5.2%. Wales' footfall declined by 1.4%.

In more positive news, the BRC revealed the average shop vacancy rate for UK town centres fell from 10.6% to 10.1% in July, the lowest it has been seen records began in 2011.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: “These results are a mixed bag, with footfall easing downwards in July but with the shop vacancy rate recording its best performance since our records began in July 2011.

“Footfall dipped 0.6 per cent in July compared to the same period last year, albeit less pronounced than in June. Out-of-town destinations performed well, off the back of strong sales of furniture, home accessories and outdoor and garden items, while high streets and shopping malls dipped reflecting weaker sales of goods such as beauty products.

“The reduction in the shop vacancy rate for the third successive quarter is heartening, with the vacancy rate at its lowest level since our records began in July 2011. However it is still the case that every tenth shop remains unoccupied. This reinforces the need for a fundamental overhaul of commercial property taxes, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new or existing retail premises and thus help rejuvenate our high streets.”

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