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UK Shoppers Hit the High Street in July

Further evidence that British shoppers aren’t bothered by Brexit was released this week—high street footfall increased 0.3% in July, a sharp turnaround from June’s 3.7% decline.

Though overall footfall was down 0.4% compared with a year ago, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard, it’s picked up from the 2.8% decrease recorded in the month prior.

“Given the decline in footfall is slowing and high street locations actually reported an increase in shopper numbers of 0.3%, some retailers in some locations may have some reasons to be cheerful,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, noting that total sales rose 1.9% last month and like-for-likes increased 1.1%.

However, footfall in retail park locations decreased for the second month in a row, down 0.3% year-on-year, and shopping center traffic fell 2 percent, compared with a 2.3% drop in June. But of greater concern, Dickinson said, is the rise in shop vacancy rates to 10.1%.

“The increase in the number of empty shops is an unwelcome reminder of the heavy burden of property costs. After a long run of shop vacancies being below 10 percent, seeing them rise over that threshold once again will be a bitter disappointment to many,” she said. “With U.K. property taxes higher than anywhere else in the developed world they act as a disincentive to operate physical space.”

“The April to June quarter can prove irregular, as post-Christmas pop ups and temporary stores disappear from the high street and the EU referendum and political and economic uncertainty of the last quarter will have deterred some retailers from taking on leases,” added Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard. “The next quarter’s figures will be the ones to watch to get a clear picture on any continued increase in vacancy rates, which would be concerning for town centers across the UK.”