Jun 13, 2022
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Physical retail is "permanently scarred" by work-from-home revolution says Springboard

Jun 13, 2022

If working from home continues at current levels, UK retail footfall would permanently remain 10% below pre-pandemic levels, Springboard warned Monday.

image: Nigel Taylor

The data company’s chief executive Diane Wehrle said the work-from-home revolution has caused “permanent scarring” to high streets months after pandemic restrictions ended.

“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,” Wehrle told the Telegraph.

She added: “In my view, until or unless there is a substantive return to the office by employees, then footfall will continue to remain at circa 10% below the 2019 level.”

Even across the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, visitor numbers only hit 80% of the same week in 2019, she noted.

Separate figures from Transport for London showed that in the run up to the celebrations, travel into the capital by commuters was only back to around 69% of normal levels.
But there are upsides, especially as far as shoppers spending money locally are concerned. Wehrle said the switch to remote working meant market towns and smaller cities weren’t as badly affected as workers instead patronised local businesses. “People have rediscovered local high streets,” she said.

And she thinks there could be good news on when people shop rather than just where. She also noted working from home may also spur new shopping patterns, with people coming to shop in the evenings, or for longer trips on the weekends, due to them no longer doing so during lunch breaks.

She said the changes aren’t “necessarily wholly detrimental. It does mean that retailers need to be aware of the changes that are happening”.

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