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'High streets need to improve customer experience' - warning as footfall hits seven-year low

PUBLISHED: 08:19 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:19 15 July 2019

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre. Photo: Archant.

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre. Photo: Archant.

Experts are warning UK high streets must improve their customer experience as footfall crashed to its worst June figures for seven years.

Shoppers continued to turn away from traditional UK shopping hubs last month, according to the BRC- Springboard footfall monitor.

Poor weather throughout June has been branded one of the factors contributing to the high street's failure to attract visitors.

MORE: Sudden closure of popular Ipswich cafe

Footfall across shopping across shopping areas fell by 2.9% for the month, as the retail downturn accelerated from 0.9% decline in the same month last year.

The high street was particularly badly affected, with visits sliding by 4.5%, compared to a 0.1% increase in June 2018 which had benefited from the Men's World Cup and sunny weather.

Shopping centres also saw significantly fewer visits, as footfall fell 2.4% for the month.

The most stable shopping hubs were retail parks, which saw 0.1% more visitors compared to the previous year.

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Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: "Poor footfall this June led to a significant fall in the sales figures for the month.

"Last year's World Cup and glorious sunshine set a high bar, which 2019's slow consumer spending and Brexit uncertainty failed to live up to.

"High streets and shopping centres across the country need to invest in improving their consumer experience if they wish to see these footfall numbers reverse."

Last month, Argos announced it would be closing down its store in Carr Street, Ipswich, while HMV in Bury St Edmunds also looks set to close following a landlord dispute.

However, June's decline represented a month-on-month improvement on May's figures, which saw footfall down 3.5% on the same month in 2018.

The BRC revealed last week that high street sales in June fell by their biggest margin on record.

Total sales fell 1.3% in June - the worst June since records began in 1995, or 1.6% on a like-for-like basis, according to the BRC and KPMG's monthly retail sales update.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: "Given the exceptional and ongoing disruptive political and economic period we are facing coupled with unprecedented structural changes in the retail sector, we might actually expect consumer activity to have taken an even greater hit.

"It was clearly high streets and shopping centres that bore the brunt of consumers railing back on their shopping trips, whilst retail parks maintained their customer base."

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