More shops but fewer shoppers on Wales' high streets - figures

First published in News by

THERE are fewer empty shops across Wales but fewer shoppers as well, according to quarterly figures published by the Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC).

The statistics showed footfall across Wales fell by 1.4 per cent in July this year, having dropped 2.7 per cent the previous month.

In better news the vacancy rate fell to 12.7 per cent, compared to 14.6 per cent the previous year.

But that figure was still higher than the UK vacancy rate of 10.1 per cent.

It seems Gwent's only city faired slightly better than the rest of Wales as Newport saw 17 per cent more visits during June than the year before, according to council figures published in the Argus last month.

There were 815,559 visits to the city during June compared with 698,210 for the same period in 2013, and the average weekly number was 163,112, a jump of 24,470 compared with the previous year.

More people visited the city centre in January, April and May 2014, compared with the previous year, although a slight decrease was recorded in February and March, said Newport council.

Across the UK, footfall in July was 0.6 per cent down on a year ago, according to the WRC, with the high street losing 1.7 per cent of foot traffic and out-of-town shopping centres picking up 1.7 per cent.

Sara Jones, director of the WRC said it was good news for Welsh shoppers with vacancy rates down, meaning more choice for consumers.

"Sadly these figures haven’t yet translated into increased footfall which is currently 1.4 per cent lower than last year’s figure and, whilst our vacancy rates have declined, we’re still above the UK average for vacant premises," she said.

"Next month we will be backing the Welsh Government’s Support your High Street campaign, which will celebrate the role of our high streets and the value they bring to Welsh communities.

"To ensure their long term success, now more than ever we need to ensure that fundamental business rates reform takes place to reduce the burden and drive positive business investment.

"A thriving retail environment has huge benefits for local communities and to continue to attract businesses to our high streets we need to see the right environment to support economic growth."

Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard which monitors footfall and vacancy rates, said the long-term issue for Wales’ town centres is the extent to which temporary lets turn into longer term ones in the key Christmas trading period.

The Argus contacted Welsh Government for a comment but did not receive one at the time of going to press.

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