British consumers shunned the high street in sale season and also reined in their spending on leisure pursuits last month.
Footfall – visitors to Britain’s brick-and-mortar retail stores – declined 1.1% in July, the biggest fall since January, said the British Retail Consortium.
Figures released by the BRC showed high streets were the hardest hit with a 2.1% drop, while shopping centres saw a 1.3% fall.
However, retail parks bucked the trend with a 1.7% increase in footfall, down to in part “convenience for shoppers”, the BRC said.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The overall decline in footfall translated into weak sales performance for stores in non-food particularly, which fell further into negative territory as consumers rein back spending on non-essential items.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at research firm Springboard, said the results marked “a sea change” in consumers’ willingness to spend, as it was the first time since the start of the year that footfall dropped during both traditional retail trading hours and in the evening.
“Over the last few months the growing importance of the leisure based trip has become a key part of the narrative when talking about retail destinations, but a 0.5% drop in footfall post 5pm in July is the first evidence of a tightening of purse strings on casual dining and leisure trips,” she said.
The results come as growing inflation and struggling wages translate into an expansion of credit and decline in savings.
The figures covered the four weeks from 2 to 29 July.
Last week, Sky News reported on Visa’s Consumer Spending Index, which said consumer spending in the UK had dropped for the third consecutive month in July – marking the longest period of decline in four years.