Office workers returning sees 10% footfall increase in London’s West End
Following the government’s announcement on 1 August, 2020 - encouraging office workers to return to their place of work – footfall in Central London has seen a 10% upturn, with Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square having the strongest week-on-week figures.
Ros Morgan, chief executive of the Heart of London Business Alliance, which carried out the research, said: “Since the government’s announcement on 1 August encouraging office workers to return to their workplace at their employers’ discretion, there has been a clear 10% increase in visitors to the West End and this has enabled almost 100 shops to open last week.
Furthermore, the importance of returning office workers is evident as shopping districts such as Jermyn Street have had a notably lower week-on-week footfall increase than areas such as Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, which have a more diverse range of visitors.
“Because of this, we welcome the new government guidance around encouraging people to have the option to return to their workplace, which will be crucial to the UK’s economic recovery.
“To ensure that this new guidance has a meaningful impact on the economy, the government needs to actively encourage businesses to safely open their workplaces to their employees, with social distancing measures in place, to give them the option to work there, whilst encouraging workers to use public transport in a safe and responsible way.”
However, the big sticking point - advising people to stay away from public transport -remains, and businesses cannot benefit if workers and visitors do not travel into Central London. Year-on-year footfall is still down by 65%, signalling that there is still a lot more that needs to be done.
Morgan adds: “The government needs to provide active encouragement for people to start using London’s public transport again, albeit in staggered travel times outside of peak hours to ensure that the system remains at levels that comply with social distancing.
“We are keen to see the introduction of London-specific messaging, highlighting the excellent measures that Transport for London is taking to ensure the system’s safety, resilience and readiness for mass passenger numbers.”
The promotion of other modes of transport such as walking and cycling routes are important, but public transport is key to getting people into the city centre from outside zones 1 and 2.
CACI, the consumer and location intelligence specialist, has also provided a more detailed picture of the impact working from home is having on retail and food and beverage sales in London.
While London accounts for 18% of all retail and F&B spend in the UK, 33% of worker spend in the country is from people working in London locations. This equates to over £3 billion annually.
Further, six of the top ten locations for worker spend in the UK are in the capital, while more than half of the top 50 worker spend locations are in London.
Alex McCulloch, Director of CACI, said: “Our analysis quantifies the value of workers to the capital and the detrimental impact working from home is having on London’s economy. Without a significant return to offices in the capital, operators and landlords alike face an uncertain future that will have a detrimental effect on the UK as a whole.”
Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive of New West End Company, representing West End businesses, commented: “CACI’s latest analysis brings to life just how profound the impact is from the lack of worker spend in our cities, and in particular London. It is crucial we support getting our office workers back safely, but en masse."