Footfall at the UK’s retail locations in August improved by a 7.3 percentage points from July, but showed a 34.8% annual decline despite leisure reopenings.
This remained below a 27.6% average decline for the past 12 months, according to the latest data from the BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor.
Footfall on high streets declined by 41.7% year-on-year in the four weeks to 29 August, performing worse than shopping centre locations for the first time since April 2018.
Visitor numbers at shopping centres fell by 37.4% year on year. This was more than 10 percentage points shallower than in July, but stayed below a 12-month average decline of 32.2%.
Retail parks were the most resilient type of location, posting an 11.1% decrease in footfall.
Geographically, Northern Ireland posted the shallowest shopping centre footfall decline after falling by 13.2%.
Wales saw a shallower rate of decline than the UK average, down by 32.4%, but Scotland was some way behind after dropping by 42.8%.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of British Retail Consortium, said in-store discounting and demand for schoolwear has attracted some footfall back to shops.
However, she said empty office blocks has had a “devastating effect” on the local economies within towns and city centres.
“While many businesses have been investing in making workplaces safer, we are unlikely to see significant growth in footfall while government advice remains to ‘work from home if you can’,” she said.
“Unless this changes, more should be done to encourage people to travel and reassure them that public transport is safe. Government should also recognise that, while footfall is so low, many businesses will not be able to manage their fixed costs – rent and business rates in particular – and unnecessary job losses and store closures will follow.”
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant for the EMEA at ShopperTrak, said: “Footfall in the UK continued to improve throughout August, with a marked upturn in the final week. This can in part be attributed to the last days of the Eat Out to Help Out campaign, and back-to-school shopping.
“With many people still working from home, high streets in many major cities desperately await the return of tourist and office commuter footfall.”
He added: “August also saw the UK recovery climb to second amongst its European peers, behind France. While this is encouraging to see, retailers are dealing with traffic levels that are still around a third lower than the same time last year. As retailers prepare to ramp up stock and promotions for the ‘golden quarter’ this will be a defining period for many retail businesses.”