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July UK footfall sees growing north-south divide as impact of inflation heightens

Tom Bottomley
04 August 2022

The north-south divide in UK footfall recovery from the pandemic widened in July, with a gain in footfall from 2021 of +8.9% in the North and Yorkshire compared to a +27.4% gain in Greater London.

The widening divide indicates the greater impact being felt in the North due to the burden of inflation, according to retail experts Springboard.

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director at Springboard, said: “It’s clear that a north-south divide is emerging in terms of the recovery in footfall, indicating the impact of the proportionately greater burden of inflation that is being felt in the North.

“The north-south divide in footfall recovery is not a recent trend and stretches back to July 2021, however, the extent of the divide has increased significantly over recent months and by July the gain in footfall from 2021 of +8.9% in the North and Yorkshire was only around third of the +27.4% gain in Greater London.”

Footfall across UK retail destinations worsened last month to -14.2% below the pre-pandemic 2019 level. On a positive note, July 2022 was two months post the anniversary of the end of Lockdown 3 in July 2021, and UK footfall was +15.6% higher than in 2021 versus +14.2% above June 2021.

Some of the weakening in consumer activity from 2019 in July was due to the extreme heatwave in the third week of the month, when footfall dipped to -16.4% below the 2019 level from -12.9% in the week before. Inevitably this meant that the uplift from 2021 also narrowed in the third week; to +11.3% from +18.2% in the previous week.

Breaking down Springboard’s latest data, UK footfall in July 2022 compared to pre-pandemic July 2019 was -17% in high streets, -18.6% in shopping centres and -3.5% in retail parks.

Wehrle added: “Whilst footfall remains lower than the 2019 level, the trend from month to month in 2022 over the seven months to the end of July averaged +1% versus an average of -0.5% over the pre-COVID decade, demonstrating the demand from shoppers for in-store shopping.

“Looking forward towards the remainder of the year, we would normally expect footfall to peak in August and then dip in September as the school summer break ends. However, in light of the increasing strain on household budgets as a consequence of inflation, this year we are anticipating that in August footfall will plateau or even drop away marginally by circa -1% from July, followed by a decline of around -3% over the month between August and September.”

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