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Retail footfall drops as work from home guidance hits city centres

Footfall at UK retail destinations fell last week, with Central London suffering the biggest decline amid work from home guidance, according to data released on Monday by retail analyst Springboard.
Footfall dropped 6% from the week before, with Central London seeing a 25.6% slump. The decline on local high streets was far more modest, however, with footfall in market towns down 2.8% and up 2% in Outer London.

Springboard said that despite work from home guidance, it was clear from the Central London “Back to the Office” benchmark that some employees did venture into the office. The benchmark, which tracks those areas of Central London closest to offices, fell 15.2%, and by 17.1% in regional city centres outside of the capital.

The overall 6% slump was driven mainly by high streets, which saw a 10.9% decline and shopping centres, which saw a 4.4% drop. Footfall at retail parks increased 2.9%.

Springboard said Footfall across UK retail destinations remained significantly lower than in the same week in 2019 – down 21.8% – but this “substantial gap” was mainly from high streets and shopping centres.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard said: “Somewhat inevitably – given that last week was the first return to work for many after the Christmas and New Year period, footfall declined from the week before. Indeed, this is a familiar result in the first week of the year, having occurred every year since 2011, and the magnitude of the drop in footfall last week was almost identical to that in the same week in 2019 and slightly lower than in the same week in 2020.

“However, the drop only occurred in high streets and shopping centres, whilst in retail parks footfall rose marginally from the week before which in part will have been driven by households replenishing groceries and household products. High streets bore the brunt of the drop in shopper activity, with the decline from the New Year week more than twice that in shopping centres, although to some degree shopping centre footfall may have been insulated by the great Christmas present return.”

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