Shopping centres 'may need makeover to meet customer demands' as footfall drops


Many shopping centres may be in need of a makeover to keep up with customers' rising standards, it has been suggested, as figures showed fewer people headed out to retail locations across the UK in September compared with a year earlier.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor said footfall was down by 0.9% on a year ago, compared with a 0.1% rise in August.

High street footfall saw a 0.5% year-on-year decrease seen in September, while footfall in shopping centres fell more sharply, by 2.5% year-on-year.

Footfall in retail parks was broadly flat in September with a 0% year-on-year change.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director, Springboard, said the decline in footfall in shopping centres "not just a one-off" as shopping centre footfall has dropped by 1.8% this year so far.

She said an issue for shopping centres could be that many have lacked the investment required to maintain their appeal for shoppers whose standards and expectations have risen.

Ms Wehrle suggested reduced investment could mean "many shopping centres have become tired and in need of an uplift in order to become compelling retail destinations for shoppers".

She continued: "Moving forward into what should be the most lucrative trading period of the year, despite the challenges of a weaker pound and living wage costs, it is critical that staffing remains strong to deliver the level of customer service required to ensure retail destinations offer a quality customer experience."

The report said consumers are still spending, despite the decline in shoppers getting out and about.

This could be a sign that the numbers of big ticket purchases are holding up, despite the lower levels of footfall, and/or that people are choosing to spend online.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said that while the decline in footfall "isn't the news retailers would hope for, taken with other retail industry data published this month it tells a fascinating story".

She said: "At the same time as both footfall and shop prices have fallen year-on-year, retail spending grew in September by 1.3%.

"This is a function of the changing face of retail and the hard work and innovation of British retail businesses who are responding brilliantly to technological advances and changing consumer habits."