‘No splurge’ shopper attitude continues in uncertain times

The “no-splurge” attitude of consumers has continued despite a rise in UK shopper numbers last month, a survey has suggested. The number of shoppers visiting stores in March was up 1.4% year-on-year, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

But Springboard said the improvement reflected a favourable comparison to March 2018 when footfall dropped by 6%.

“We continue to be in the midst of a no-splurge culture,” said Springboard. Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said shoppers remained focused on “prudence”.

“This becomes very obvious when looking at footfall in each week; with the month being bookended by two strong weeks, while footfall plunged in the middle three weeks,” she added.

Across the UK, High Street footfall grew by 2.5% annually in March. Footfall in retail parks grew by 1.5%, but shopping centre footfall faltered by 1% year-on-year.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retailers will be relieved to see footfall up from last year though this is was heavily influenced by the weather: while shoppers in 2018 were contending with the ‘Beast from the East’, this March has been mild by comparison.

“Unfortunately, the higher footfall has not translated into higher spending.”

Several shops are suffering in the tough High Street environment, with Debenhams recently falling into administration before being rescued by its lenders.

Last year, Poundworld, Toys R Us and Maplin all went bust and disappeared altogether.

Other household names – Homebase, Mothercare, Carpetright and New Look – were forced into restructuring deals with their landlords, closing hundreds of stores.

Music chain HMV recently fell into administration before being bought.

The increasing popularity of online shopping, higher business rates, rising labour costs and the fall in the pound following the Brexit vote – which has increased the cost of imported goods – have all been blamed for contributing to retailers’ woes.