Although all retail sectors are suffering from the economic downturn to varying degrees, it is the traditional high street that is experiencing the most pain, with footfall down over 10% over the past three years, according to new research. The first Footfall Focus from Colliers International says that high street retailers are being buffeted by a “perfect storm” of stalled national economic growth, accelerating on-line spending, multiple retailer branch consolidation and impact from both in-town shopping centres and out of town retail, including the supermarkets. The study found that high street footfall, excluding central London, has fallen, on average, by more than 10% in just three years and that footfall on primary high streets has, on average, fallen at double the rate of that for secondary streets, albeit from a much higher base. The research found that footfall in high streets had declined particularly rapidly during the second half of each year, which includes the important pre-Christmas run-up, traditionally the busiest time of the year for retailers. The Footfall Focus also found that there were huge differences in footfall between the strongest and weakest high streets, suggesting that local factors may be as important as national ones. For example, over the past couple of years, footfall has fallen by up to 25% in some high streets, including Commercial Street in Leeds and Eastgate Street in Gloucester, whereas in other locations, such as Regent Street in Swindon and Commercial Road in Bournemouth, it has actually by up to 7%. Dr Richard Doidge, director of research consultancy at Colliers International, said: “Footfall is a good but under-researched measure of the health of a centre. Levels have fallen along most of our high streets in recent years, especially outside of central London, mirroring the trends in other indicators such as voids and rents. “To halt the decline of the high street as a retail destination, falling footfall levels have to be reversed. This will require an improvement in the economic fortunes of country and consumer. In addition, national planning policy must continue to support in-centre retail development over out of centre. High streets must also be made more desirable places at which to shop, or carry out other activities, with particular attention being given to streets that find themselves out of favour following the opening of a new purpose built shopping centre.”