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UK Retail Foot Traffic Jumped in April

Fastest growth since 2014, aided by Easter and tourism

May 16, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

Brick-and-mortar retailers in the UK saw better-than-average foot traffic in April, helped not only by Easter, but also by currency-influenced changes in consumer travel behavior.

Foot traffic at UK retailers grew 1.6% in April vs. the same month last year—the fastest growth since March 2014, according to figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and retail intelligence firm Springboard.

April’s result was more than double the three-month average growth rate of 0.7%, which nonetheless was the first positive three-month average in foot traffic since May 2014, and the highest three-month increase since February 2012.

“The Easter holidays boosted family visits to shopping destinations in April, resulting in the fastest annual growth of footfall since March 2014,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson. “The inclusion of the holidays in this period will have distorted this figure, but even looking beyond this, the picture over the last quarter has been largely positive.”

April’s improvement was boosted by a weakened pound inspiring an increase in retail traffic from overseas tourists, according to Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s director of marketing and insights, as exemplified by a 2.7% increase in foot traffic in London’s West End for the month, and by a relatively poor exchange rate encouraging more UK consumers to opt for Easter-period staycations.

BRC and Springboard believe “staycationers” were responsible for a 5.1% expansion in foot traffic for retailers in coastal towns and a 7.9% gain at shops in historic towns.

Those traffic gains looked to have helped line retailers’ coffers during the month. Retail sales grew 6.3% overall and 5.6% on a like-for-like basis in April compared with the corresponding period of 2016, according to the BRC.

—Cliff Annicelli

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