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Heatwave causes high street footfall slump but staycation hotspots boosted

Tom Bottomley
17 August 2020

Footfall across all retail destinations throughout the UK rose a marginal +0.8% for the week of 9-15 August 2020, compared to the week before which saw a +3.8% rise.

However, high streets footfall dropped -0.5%, while tourist hotspots – boosted by the heatwave – saw footfall rise +0.3% in coastal towns and +0.9% in historic local towns, according to the latest footfall data from retail experts Springboard.

Footfall in shopping centres was also up +2.4%, while retail parks saw a rise of +1.9%.

Put in to perspective in light of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, footfall across all UK retail destinations remains around a third lower than in 2019, with a year-on-year decline last week of -32.5%.

Diane Wehrle, Insights director at Springboard, commented: “The first week of the peak summer holiday period delivered spectacularly hot weather but largely lacklustre footfall performance. Customer activity across UK retail destinations rose marginally from the week before but the uplift was less than a third of the increase recorded in the previous week.

“It was clearly high streets - where footfall marginally decreased - that subdued the overall result, while in shopping centres and retail parks footfall rose from the week before. 

“Despite the poor performance across high streets nationally, footfall in coastal and historic town centres rose marginally, undoubtedly due to the school holiday period and hot weather, while in regional cities and in London in particular footfall declined.”

While the +0.3% week-on-week rise of footfall in coastal towns and the +0.9% rise in historic towns may seem minimal, the hot weather certainly helped tourist towns when compared to the -4.1% and -2.5% decreases respectively in the same week as last year, when the weather was 10 degrees cooler and it was raining throughout the UK.

The impact of the hot weather on London was as noticeable but in reverse as, while footfall declined marginally last year in Central London from the week before by -0.8%, this year it fell by -4.5%, and in high streets across Greater London as a whole footfall dropped by -5.2% versus -2.3% in the same week last year.

The increase in activity in retail parks last week means that footfall is now just 13.2% lower than last year in this destination type, compared with shopping centres and high streets where footfall in both remains over a third lower than in 2019, with annual drops of -37.1% and -39.2% respectively.

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