BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Although this month’s increase in footfall is only marginal, it is an improvement on last month’s 0.4 per cent decline. It’s also only the third time this year that overall footfall has increased. So, while these figures will give retailers some cheer, they’ll only be cautiously optimistic for the months ahead.
"High Streets were the real winner in terms of the destinations we were favouring this month. They saw footfall rise a healthy 1.1 per cent. This compares with a fall in retail sales for the same period. This suggests that people are being drawn to the High Streets for reasons other than to shop - perhaps because many are now doing a better job of providing a mixed offer and are no longer solely retail destinations. Improving this model should bode well for the longer term survival of the British High Street."
Springboard market and insights director Diane Wehrle said: "The modest uplift in August’s high street footfall is heartening news for retailers following two months of consecutive footfall decline in June and July and compared to the drop of 1.6 per cent in August 2015. Driving the overall rise on the high street is an increase in footfall post 5pm, which highlights the growing evening economy based on leisure activities – hospitality, food and beverage trips – and is a result of a markedly improved and expanded offering by shopping destinations. Only in retail parks did footfall during daytime trading hours improve.
"August saw an influx of tourists and a return of the staycation in the UK as 5.1 m Brits decided to holiday at home over the bank holiday weekend. Whilst increased footfall didn’t translate to sales for many, coastal towns saw an improvement of -2.2 per cent in July and August vs -4 per cent in July/August 2015 and many retailers will be hoping that the tourism boom continues on the high street as we head into the Autumn.
"With a footfall rise of just 0.4 per cent compared with 1.7 per cent in August 2015, all signs are pointing to a diminishing rate of increase in retail parks. However, this trend has only been in evidence over the last four months, with an average increase of 0.1 per cent since May compared with 2.2 per cent between May-August in 2015. A kneejerk reaction might be to assume a post Brexit impact, however, improved averages for high streets and shopping centres over the same period this year does not wholly bear this out. More likely is that many noticeable enhancements in key out of town locations, which drove significant uplifts over the past two years, are already in place. Going forward retail parks may face similar challenges as high streets and shopping centres in delivering incremental growth in footfall."
Meanwhile, the latest UK jobs numbers show employment up by 174,000 jobs and unemployment falling to 1.63 million, down by 39,000 from the previous period, with the unemployment rate stable at 4.9 per cent. Wage growth has slowed slightly - with average earnings, including bonuses, up by 2.3 per cent, a 0.1 per cent slower rate of growth compared to the previous period.
The figures suggest that, as indicated by the latest Federation of Small Businesses research, small firms have been resilient, managing to absorb the initial costs of the new National Living Wage without cutting employment or passing on the costs to the consumer. FSB’s data found the majority of small businesses (59 per cent) absorbed the additional costs by lowering profits and making other efficiencies.