Shoppers' "great return" awaits as January footfall slowly improves - Springboard
Positive effects linked to the end of the government’s Plan B Covid restrictions and the beginning of “the great return” of shoppers to UK high streets haven’t fully kicked in, according to Springboard on Thursday.
That meant January was “most definitely” a month of two halves, it said, with the 2-29 January period beginning weakly and ending with something of a flourish.
Looking at the month as a whole, footfall across UK retail destinations weakened in January, reaching a gap of -20.8% from the 2019 level versus -18.6% in December, “driven by a poorer relative performance in high streets and shopping centres”.
But with the removal of Plan B restrictions, footfall “strengthening noticeably” in the second half of the month to -19.2% below 2019 from -21.5% below 2019 in the first two weeks.
But the latter month gain was not an even one across all of the three destination types, with the start of the great return of shoppers occurring only in high streets where footfall strengthened (from -28.9% below 2019 in the first two weeks to -22.4% in the second two weeks) Meanwhile, in shopping centres and retail parks the gap from 2019 widened (from -24.9% to -25.4% in the former and from -2.2% to -5.8% for the latter).
For high streets the results in January are positive on two fronts, said Springboard. First, activity started to increase in overall terms as employees returned to their offices for at least part of the week, and customers began to return to physical stores during the day and to dine out again in the evening.
The second positive aspect for high streets is that the start of the recovery in footfall to the high street took place in both smaller high streets and in larger city centres as a result of hybrid home/ office working, and the growth of co-working spaces that are starting to emerge in smaller high streets, particularly in Outer London.
Footfall in Central London, regional cities and market towns around the UK all strengthened by around a quarter between the second and the fourth week of the month, and in Outer London it strengthened by nearly a third.
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