High street footfall continues to lag behind pre-pandemic levels

As rising costs are set to batter retailers from 1 April, footfall levels remain 23 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels in February 2022*.

The latest data from Datscha, analysed by RSM shows the overall decline in footfall is worst in London with numbers on Oxford Street down 46 per cent. Key shopping streets in major Northern cities are also suffering, with footfall on Manchester’s Market Street down 38 per cent and Newcastle’s Northumberland Street down 37 per cent. Footfall on Buchanan Street in Glasgow is also down 25 per cent.

Restrictions on international travel and testing requirements, which have now been scrapped, deterred tourists from visiting the UK, and consequently hampered footfall levels particularly in cities like London. In addition, the extreme February storms, concerns about the rising cost of living, and a post-pandemic behavioural shift to online shopping have all contributed to the reduced footfall.

However, Guildford, Leeds and Brighton are bucking the trend, with increases in footfall of 28 per cent, 7 per cent and 2 per cent respectively, when compared to pre-pandemic figures. This is likely to have been boosted by Guildford and Brighton homeworkers shopping on their local high streets rather than commuting into London. By way of comparison, the increase in footfall in Leeds is likely to be due to more workers returning to the office.

Jacqui Baker, partner and head of retail, comments: ‘Despite high street footfall being below pre-pandemic levels, there’s hope that the worst of the pandemic is now behind us, particularly with the removal of all Covid restrictions which is a huge step in the right direction for the sector. Keeping the best of in-store through the retention of good staff and investing in technology to enhance the customer experience will be key in helping the sector regain its pace.

‘Consumer confidence is already fragile due to the pandemic and is now facing another setback as a result of the cost of living crisis. Fears of soaring energy costs, higher mortgage repayments and increased petrol prices are all squeezing incomes and creating competition for household spend, which, in turn, may impact future footfall.

‘Retailers face an upcoming pinch point from 1 April as the national minimum wage and national insurance increase kicks in, along with the end of Covid support schemes. Many retailers will have been underwhelmed with the Chancellor’s Spring Statement with no mention of the long-awaited business rates reform – a real missed opportunity to support retailers recover and thrive post-pandemic.’

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