Welcome boost as October retail footfall provides “optimistic" early start to Christmas - Springboard
Although UK retail footfall isn’t yet back to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, there was a “noticeable improvement” in October, Springboard revealed on Thursday.
A much-needed spring in the step last month came from city centres. While they’re continuing to suffer the absence of overseas tourists, the gain “suggests that the drift back to the office is accelerating”, it noted.
And footfall in Central London was the biggest gainer, moving upwards from -32.2% in September to 22.2% below the 2019 level in October. In regional cities outside of the capital, footfall in October also reached -15.7% from -19.3% in September.
Overall, footfall across the 3-30 October period edged up to 13.4% lower than in 2019 compared with -17.4% in September.
By category, footfall declined from 2019 by 15% in high streets, and 20% in shopping centres. By contrast, retail park footfall in overall terms has bounced back far more to a pre-Covid level, coming in at a modest -3.1%.
But the overall October picture was given a lift by the final week of the month, which included the October school half-term. This was “pivotal” in boosting footfall, shifting the average from -14.3% over the first three weeks to -10.9% in the last week of the month.
However, when it comes to store vacancy rates, the overall picture remains subdued. In facet it remains high at 11.7% with only a very marginal improvement from 11.8% in July.
“This is despite the growth of pop-up stores which are a typical feature of retail destinations in the run up to Christmas, but which should be even more prevalent now given the greater availability of empty space,” said Diane Wehrle, Marketing & Insights Director for Springboard.
She added that the overall vacancy rate wasn’t a "surprising outcome as the rate is both a lagged and sticky indicator. The complexities of the leasing market and the heavy burden of business rates hinder the reoccupation of empty units while also often forcing unviable retailers to continue to trade, highlighting its limitations as the sole indicator for determining bricks and mortar retail performance.”
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