Sep 28, 2021
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Return to office boosts high street footfall, especially central London

Sep 28, 2021

Footfall across all UK retail destinations rose week-on-week in the latest seven days (19-25 September) and was particularly welcome on three important fronts.

London's appeal continues as workers return and footfall numbers rise - Photo: Nigel Taylor

It was the first rise registered in the past four weeks and it was a particularly positive performance as footfall had declined in the same week in both 2019 and 2020 by comparison. 

But best of all, central London and large city centres outside the capital performed the best (footfall up 6.5% and 6.1% week-on-week respectively) and was particularly strong in areas where workers had returned to their offices, up 8.8% in areas dominated by offices rather than stores.

According to Springboard, UK footfall across last week rose a collective 2.7%, rising 3.7% in high streets, 2.3% in shopping centres and by 0.9% in retail parks. By contrast, outer London and market towns across the UK, which had benefited from home working, saw footfall rise by just 1.5%.  

Further supporting evidence that a return to offices has started is that over the Monday to Friday working week, footfall rose in high streets by 6.7% but dropped by 1.5% on Saturday, while in shopping centres the rise in footfall averaged 3% between Monday to Friday but just 0.4% on Saturday.

The uplift in activity in high streets was 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 while in shopping centres footfall remains -23.6% below the 2019 level.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “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”.

She added:“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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