April deluge 'hit retail figures'

Heavy downpours during April hit footfall on Britain's high streets as town centres witnessed the worst decline in shopper numbers since November 2009, a report has revealed.

The number of shoppers in town centres, where more than one in ten premises lie empty, fell 12.6% last month compared with April 2011, according to data from retail specialist Springboard.

April's adverse weather exacerbated an already woeful three months from February, which saw an overall decline in visitors to the high street of 6.4%.

The effect of the heavy rain was evident from the rise in shopper numbers at indoor shopping centres last month compared with the woeful double-digit decline seen in ailing town centres.

But out-of-town stores and shopping centres also saw weaker footfall compared with last year, with a 2% slump in shopper numbers overall between February and April.

Scottish shops had the worst fall in visitors at 12.6% while Wales was the only region to see a lift in footfall at 0.6%.

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: "Essentially consumers lack confidence, disposable incomes are still dropping and fewer people are shopping for anything that isn't essential.

"Inflation's downward trajectory moves us closer to the real incomes growth that will get people shopping again, but a fundamental turnaround is some way off."

Despite this bleak picture for retail, hopes for a boost during the long Diamond Jubilee weekend provide a much-needed "silver lining", said Springboard's Research Director Diane Wehrle.