Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium:
“All shopping destinations saw shopper footfall ease back in October, which mirrors the month’s paltry sales performance. Even retail parks, which have continually bucked the trend until now, struggled to attract as many visitors as the previous year.
“The picture improved slightly for town centre vacancies over the last quarter, but this is to be expected in the lead up to Christmas as landlords are inclined to offer more flexible short-term lets to prop up their rental income over the festive period. Yet nearly one in 10 retail premises still lies empty as the burden of business rates continues to stifle investment in new or refurbished stores in town centres and in less economically viable locations.
“Without decisive action from the Chancellor in his upcoming Budget then retailers face a stark £270 million leap in their rates bill from April; money which could otherwise be invested in stores and digital innovation. If reports over recent days of a potential cap on this increase come true, it would be a hugely welcome first step towards a reformed and more financially sustainable rates system over the years ahead.”
Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director, Springboard:
"October delivered a black trading cloud ahead of the Christmas sales storm; not only was the -2% drop in footfall the worst result for October since 2013 when it declined by -2.9%, but it was also higher than the result for the month of October in subsequent years which ranged between -0.8% and -0.2%. The signs of the gathering cloud have been evident in footfall trends for a while; with the rolling three month average dropping to -1.4%, the lowest since June last year. Both high streets and shopping centres are clearly under pressure, with footfall during retail trading hours dropping by more than -3% in each. And the fact that retail park footfall slipped into negative territory – even during daytime hours - whilst prior to November recording seven consecutive months of growth, is definitive evidence of consumers tightening their purse strings.
“It is also critical not to read too much into the improvement in the vacancy rate to 9.3%, from 9.6% last quarter, as this is a trend that has occurred over the last few years as landlords fill empty stores with temporary lettings in the run up to Christmas. Indeed, as trading performance comes under increasing strain, it is likely that landlords will increasingly resort to this approach, and so we may see the vacancy rate remain at this level well into the new year. With possibly another two interest rate rises on the horizon these results suggest that Black Friday, and the subsequent Christmas sales storm, will be typified by consumers battening down the hatches."