National town centre vacancy rate hit 10.2 percent in April, according to the monthly BRC-Springboard footfall and vacancies report, marking a further increase on the previous quarter rate of 9.9 percent and the highest since April 2015.

As shop closures continued so did footfall decline, the figures covering the four weeks from March 31 to April 27 reveals that footfall declined by 0.5 percent, compared to the same period last year when it declined by 3.3 percent.

High Street footfall declined by 1.0 percent, this was a lesser decline relative to the previous year when it fell by 4.0 percent, while the three-month average is 0.1 percent.

Retail Park footfall increased by 2.2 percent, in contrast to April 2018 when footfall decreased by 1.8 percent and shopping centre footfall reported a declined of 2.1 percent, showing a “significant slowdown” from a year ago when it decreased by 3.1 percent, and in line with the three-month average.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said in a statement: “With regular reports of shop closures, it may come as no surprise that town centre vacancy rates rose to their highest level in four years. Empty shopfronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area, decreasing footfall for all those around. This effect can be cyclical, with the long-term decline in footfall pushing up vacancy rates, particularly in poorer areas.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, added: “There is an obvious distortion in the year-on-year footfall results for April due to the early Easter in March last year. However, the expected bounty as a result of Easter occurring in April this year did not provide enough of a boost to deliver positive figures for the month, with footfall still -0.5 percent lower than April last year.

“This demonstrates the continued challenges facing many retailers, also reflected in the 10.2 percent vacancy rate which has risen in each of the past four quarters and is now the highest it has been for four years.”

Areas that did receive a boost with the warmer weather over Easter were coastal towns and historic cities, according to the data, with both seeing a footfall rise in April. Coastal towns saw footfall increase by 1.8 percent, while regional cities were up 0.7 percent. This in contrast to footfall in Greater London where it was down 1.6 percent and the South East by 1.5 percent.


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