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High Street

Return to offices boosts city footfall

Over the Monday to Friday working week, footfall rose in high streets by +6.7% but dropped by -1.5% on Saturday

Footfall across UK retail destinations rose by +2.7% last week from the week before, rising by +3.7% in high streets, +2.3% in shopping centres and +0.9% in retail parks. 

A return to offices saw a particular boost in activity, as footfall in central London and large city centres outside of London rose by +6.5% and +6.1% respectively, and by +8.8% in the areas of central London specifically dominated by offices.

In contrast, in both outer London and in market towns across the UK, where home working has more often remained in place, footfall rose by only +1.5%.  

Insights expert Springboard said that further signs that a return to offices has begun is that over the Monday to Friday working week, footfall rose in high streets by +6.7% but dropped by -1.5% on Saturday.

In shopping centres, meanwhile, the rise in footfall averaged +3% between Monday to Friday but rose by only +0.4% on Saturday.

The uplift in activity in high streets of +3.7% was deemed a “significant improvement” from the same week in 2019 when footfall declined by -6.3%. 

This degree of improvement, alongside increases in footfall in shopping centres and retail parks, led to the gap in footfall from 2019 in UK retail destinations narrowing to -15.2% from -19.9% in the week before.  

In high streets the gap narrowed even more; to -15.8% from -24.4% in the previous week whilst in shopping centres footfall remains -23.6% below the 2019 level.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard said: “Footfall in UK retail destinations last week rose last week from the week before, which is the first rise in the past four weeks and a particularly positive result as footfall declined in the same week in both 2019 and 2020.  

“Footfall rose in all three destination types, but by far the greatest uplift  occurred in high streets, where the increase was a third higher than in shopping centres and four times as great as that in retail parks.”

She added: “High street footfall was undoubtedly supported by a shift back to the office, demonstrated by a greater uplift from the week before in central London and large city centres outside of the capital, than in smaller high streets and in outer London.  In areas of central London with a large proportion of office rather than retail space, footfall rose by more than in central London as a whole.

“The greater rise in footfall in high streets meant that the gap from the 2019 level narrowed significantly, and is now a third less than in shopping centres.”

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