With footfall in regional out-of-town shopping malls like Bluewater down by nearly 6%, there are increasing signs that shoppers are responding to £6/gallon fuel costs by deciding to stay local which is great news for Brighton & Hove.
Balanced against this, high street footfall has declined by just 1.5%. It would seem that out-of-town shopping is falling out of favour with consumers sqeezed by increasing fuel and food costs and less available credit.
Department store chain John Lewis, which is the only one to publish weekly sales figures for each of its stores, has seen big declines at its out-of-town stores. In the last week of June it saw sales at its out-of-town stores decline by 12% in the least affected and a stunning 25% in the worst affected.
Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose also highlighted shoppers' increasing reluctance to drive any distance to go shopping when he unveiled a profits warning on July 2.
The average tank full of petrol (50 litres) now costs about £60, an increase of £12 on this time last year, while 50 litres of diesel costs £66, an increase of £17.40 on a year ago. The AA reports that a two-car family has to find an extra £10.60 a week for fuel and consequently two-thirds of motorists are cutting back on car journeys.
Another survey, by research group Populus, showed that 29% of motorists had cut back on trips to out-of-town retail parks and 33% had even stopped driving to local shops - preferring to walk, cycle or take the bus.
Unsurprisingly, motorists' increasing reluctance to get in the car to go shopping is a boon for internet businesses. Hitwise, which measures online traffic, reports that internet traffic to retail websites has increased by 6.5% compared with last year.
John Lewis's sales numbers reflect that. In the week it reported the biggest dips at out-of-town centres such as Bluewater and Cribbs Causeway, its website had a bumper seven days, with 20% year-on-year growth. The first day of the department store chain's summer sale was its busiest Saturday on record and second best day ever in terms of the number of products sold.
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