Retail footfall figures up one per cent

Retailers experienced a one per cent increase in footfall in April, when compared on a like-for-like basis with April 2012, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The one per cent growth represented a significant improvement on March's performance, when footfall fell by 5.2 per cent. April's showing is the strongest since the 5.7 per cent increase in December 2011.

There was some less encouraging news, however, as it was revealed that the number of empty shops in town centres across the UK has reached 11.9 per cent. The figure has grown by one per cent since the start of the year and is the highest since the BRC survey began in July 2011.

The BRC's director general, Helen Dickinson, said:

"It's a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK, with some regions like the South West seeing a significant leap in empty shop numbers. With high streets topping the agenda for many now, there's a real opportunity here to seize the moment and stem the tide of further closures. Comparatively small steps to tackle deep-rooted issues such as parking, accessibility and rising business costs could make a huge difference to the health of town centres.

"At least there's some cheer on offer in the footfall figures, driven by a respectable showing for high streets, but this compares against a very rainy April 2012, when bad weather left a lot of shoppers running for cover. The unsettled weather at the start of the month seems to have created pent-up demand, which brought many of us out to shop when more spring-like weather finally made an appearance."

Dickinson said that retailers would be hoping that a strong Bank Holiday weekend will provide a welcome late boost to May's figures.