Footfall rises in UK high streets

Latest data from retail experts Springboard reveals that footfall across all UK retail destinations rose by +0.4% on a week on week basis last week as Britain gets back to work after the August Bank Holiday Monday. The annual result for UK retail destinations has strengthened to -25%, the best year on year change since the start of the lockdown.

Of the three destination types, it was only in high streets, where many workplaces are located, that footfall rose from the week before (by +2.6%) versus drops in both retail parks and shopping centres (-0.9% in retail parks and -2.7% in shopping centres). This result suggests that the return to work has begun, albeit modestly. The modest start of a return to work is supported by the result for the four working days between Tuesday and Friday, when footfall rose in the UK’s high streets by +0.5% from the week before, versus declines of -3.4% in UK retail parks and -3.2% in UK shopping centres.

In Greater London’s high streets, where office employment is greater than in any other part of the UK, footfall rose by +5.3% from the week before, more than in any other area, further suggesting that employees are starting to return to their offices. Footfall rose on a week on week basis in seven out of the ten UK geographies, but the next largest rises ranged from +4.1% in the West Midlands to +4.7% in the East Midlands. In contrast, in retail parks footfall rose from the week before in only three UK geographies and in shopping centres footfall declined in all areas apart from in Greater London where it rose by +3.5%.

Despite the improvement in high street footfall, it is important to appreciate the scale of the shift needed to recover the decline in activity that has occurred, with footfall in Greater London’s high streets remaining 40.9% lower than last year, 51.9% lower in Central London and 39.5% lower in the UK regional cities.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard commented: “The week of August Bank Holiday Monday, which for many households represented the first week that children returned to school, led to a modest rise in footfall across all UK retail destinations. Last week’s result was enough to continue the trend of recovery, delivering the best year on year result since the start of the lockdown in March.”

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