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Report Reveals Extent of High Street Retail’s Problems as Online Shopping Flourishes

15 October 2019 - 15:58 by Simon Crisp

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Figures published by the British Retail Consortium plot out the decline in the popularity of shopping on the high street in the UK over the past seven years, with total footfall dropping by a tenth during this period.

Last month alone there was a 1.7 per cent year-on-year reduction in visitor numbers at bricks and mortar stores across the UK, with the popularity of safe shopping online only partly to blame for this state of affairs.

BRC spokesperson Helen Dickinson said that the long-term downward trend for footfall figures was clearly an issue yet one without an immediately obvious solution, especially with the shadow of Brexit falling over the British consumer consciousness at the moment.

She also pointed out that there were differences in the success of some specific bricks and mortar locations, with out-of-town retail parks managing to appeal to people while traditional high street outlets were in a less positive position by comparison.

Industry analyst Diane Wehrle of Springboard, which helped conduct the study, said that even with concerns being voiced about the long-term future of the high street, four-fifths of retail spending remains dedicated to this channel and the Christmas shopping season should help to boost beleaguered retailers in the final weeks of 2019.

Experts argue that part of the reason for September’s decline in visitor numbers is that the weather was unseasonably unpleasant, preventing shoppers from deciding to visit real-world stores. Instead they were focusing their attentions on online alternatives.

One positive piece of news is that high street stores still retain the same ability to attract customers proportional to the number of people who are actually out and about, so there is something to be said for the draw of a physical outlet.