High Street

WFH shift may ‘permanently scar’ high streets, experts warn

Springboard told the Telegraph that weakened footfall was the result of a decline in office workers visiting shops in urban centres, as well as the growth in online shopping

The shift to working from home amid the pandemic has allegedly caused “permanent scarring” to the UK’s high streets as workers continue to stay away from city centres, Springboard has told the Telegraph

Speaking to the paper, Diane Wehrle, chief executive of the retail insights group, said footfall in towns and cities is still “well below” pre-pandemic levels, with subdued visitor numbers even reported over the Jubilee weekend. 

It comes as its latest research found that footfall in May declined by -16.4% in high streets, -17.8% in shopping centres and -3.5% in retail parks when compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Wehrle told the Telegraph that weakened footfall was the result of a decline in office workers visiting shops in urban centres, as well as the growth in online shopping that was triggered by national lockdowns.

She warned that if working from home continued at current levels, it would “likely mean footfall would permanently remain 10% lower than it otherwise would be”.

She told The Telegraph: “It impacts footfall because workers are simply not in towns or cities as much. So, of course, it’s going to keep footfall lower than it would have been, had everyone gone back to their offices full time.Unless that changes, there will be a permanent scarring and certainly permanent change in the way we shop.

“Of course, that immediately impacts all the shops and the stores that service the offices in central London and other cities –  sandwich bars, the restaurants, the chemists. In my view, until or unless there is a substantive return to the office by employees, then footfall will continue to remain at circa 10pc below the 2019 level.”

Nonetheless, she told the paper that a rise in remote working has seen market towns and smaller cities have more local businesses patronised by home workers, noting that “people have rediscovered local high streets”.

She added that a recent change in shopping patterns, with more people shopping in the evenings or during longer weekend trips, was “not necessarily wholly detrimental”, but noted that “retailers need to be aware of the changes that are happening”.

Back to top button