High street footfall drops 5.3% as retailers call for reform of business rates

Footfall to the high street fell by over five per cent in February, compared to the same time last year, with retailers asking the chancellor to commit to a reform of business rates in the budget this week.

The British Retail Consortium and Springboard said that the 5.3 per cent drop in footfall made February the worst month in the past year for high street retailers.

Similarly, footfall at retail destinations fell by 2.9 per cent.

Wet weather and the sharp increase in retail sales in January, meaning consumers may have been more frugal in February, were offered as reasons for the declining figures.

However, director-general of the BRC, Helen Dickinson, said that this actually shows “how important it is we keep our focus on reform of business rates to keep costs down,” referring to George Osborne’s £1.1bn package of business rates relief and the possibility of tax reform.

“Reform will help high street retailers invest in their offer and attract more people out to the shops, supporting local jobs and benefiting the wider economy,” she said.

Despite footfall on the high street and shopping centres falling, footfall at out-of-town locations increased 2.3 per cent. This suggests that amid heavy rain shoppers chose to drive and park their cars at conveniently located retail destinations.

The chancellor of the exchequer will give his budget to parliament on 19 March 2014.

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