UK retail footfall dropped 1% between May and July, driven by a 1.9% decline in people visiting out-of-town complexes, according to figures from the BRC/Springboard-ATCM Footfall and Vacancies Monitor.

The monitor, released today (22 August), found that Wales, the West Midlands and the East of England were hardest hit, with declines of 9.2%, 6.6% and 6.2% respectively.

London, the South West, and Scotland were the only areas that saw shopper numbers rise, with the BRC reporting 1.6%, 0.4% and 0.2% increases respectively.

The national vacancy rate was 11.2% in May, with Northern Ireland at 17.1%, Wales at 13.4% and the North and Yorkshire at 13.1% recording the highest vacancy rates.

The number of people entering shopping centres rose by 0.6% over the period. The BRC said that July footfall counts rose across all types of shopping locations rose against June due to the combination of summer sales and the start of school holidays.

“In July, all types of shopping locations saw reduced footfall year-on-year and that was before the effect of this month’s disturbances in England. Fewer people are shopping because households are facing high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about future job prospects,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson.

“But that’s slightly offset by hard-up customers spreading their spending over more but less costly shopping trips.

“For the quarter, the 1% drop in shopper numbers compared with this time last year is not great but is actually an improvement on the 1.3% fall over the 12 months before that.”

He added that the parts of the UK where the public sector is a bigger proportion of the economy are the ones where consumer spending is “more likely to be hit by worries about job prospects and cuts, meaning people are shopping less and more retail businesses are failing. By both measures, Northern Ireland and Wales are suffering particularly badly.”

Springboard research director Diane Wehrle said there has been a shift in activity between different types of shopping areas.

“Traditionally retail parks and malls outperformed the high street due to ease of access and free parking. However, these areas are now experiencing similar challenges to town centres.

“The modest 0.6% growth in footfall in shopping centres could, in part, be attributed to the early start of summer sales by the multiples which dominate those spaces.

“In addition, shopping centres experienced the largest annual decline in footfall during the same period in 2010 – so their increase in footfall this year starts from a much lower base,” said Wehrle.