​Too cold to shop? March weather dents start of spring shopping season in UK

Now that we are well into April, the full extent of how bad UK retail was in March is becoming clearer. On Monday, Springboard released its definitive roundup of March footfall and said that it was down 6%.


Spring may have been here but it was too cold for many Britons to go shopping in March


This was a substantial decline compare to the 1.3% increase of exactly a year earlier and in fact, it was the sharpest year-on-year drop since late 2010. The size of the decline can also be seen from the fact that the 12-month average is just a 1.4% drop.

Not one UK region saw footfall growth last month, which is a very unusual situation. And the biggest declines included some areas that might surprise some. Greater London was down 7.5% and the Southeast dropped 6.5%, while the East Midlands fell 5.6%.

All retail shopping destinations suffered and high streets were the biggest casualties with declines of close to 9%. There had been some hope for shopping malls, given that they are under cover and could have proved more appealing when the weather outside was cold and wet. But in the event they were down almost 5%. Retail parks continued to be the most buoyant destinations yet still didn't manage to rise. They declined 1.8%.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said: “The severe weather put paid to any glimmer of hope for an uplift in shopper activity in March. Hitting the week following the payday weekend was the worst timing possible as it meant that shoppers who had available budget deferred trips. A proportion of this was made up over Easter, with footfall in shopping centres and retail parks rising from last Easter but this was more than offset by the impact of the heavy rain on high streets. Indeed, throughout the month we were able to track the impact on footfall each day as adverse weather moved across the UK.”

While the first week of the month was hit hard with a 17% decline week-on-week, footfall did bounce back at times when the weather improved. But even with the bounce-backs, there was a reduced shopper pool compared with last year, “with the significant annual decline of 6% over the month demonstrating that there is reduced shopper activity this year than in 2017.”

Wehrle said “this is undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints attached to current price inflation and concern for the future, exacerbated by the underlying structural shift in consumer habits away from purely transaction-based activity towards activity with a leisure focus.”

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