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High Street shopper exodus accelerates in March

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By John Glenday, Reporter

April 18, 2016 | 2 min read

A long-term trend for shoppers to migrate away from the High Streets towards online stores accelerated in March, with retailers blaming an early Easter and dismal weather for keeping customers indoors.

A survey by the British Retail Consortium and retail analysts Springboard showed a 2.7 per cent decline in footfall over March, a significant jump on the 1.1 per cent fall recorded in February and 1.2 per cent dip in January.

High Street stores found themselves in the eye of the storm once again with an even more precipitous 3.9 per cent slide, accelerating the 2.9 per cent fall posted in February.

Shopping Centres fared nearly as badly with traffic down 3.7 per cent, versus 0.6 per cent in the previous month, with the only sector to buck the trend being out of town retail parks – which registered a 1.6 per cent year-on-year increase in traffic.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “We also know that declining footfall makes it harder to keep shops open and profitable. Areas that are already economically fragile are likely to see the greatest impact of future store closures," she said.

"Retailers will have to look hard, too, at the effectiveness of their workforce and some of the people affected by changing roles will be those who find it most difficult to transition into new jobs that are created. The implications of all of this change will be uneven across different parts of the country, different parts of the retail workforce and different sizes of business.”

Changing consumer habits have not only seen more people choose to shop online but also many people dedicate a smaller proportion of their disposable income to shopping, with more choosing to spend on other leisure activities instead.

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