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UK footfall worsens but more London workers return to the office

Tom Bottomley
16 May 2022

Footfall in UK retail destinations declined by -0.7% last week, 8 – 14 May, compared to the week before, a consequence of drops in footfall in retail parks of -1.8% and shopping centres of -2.3%, while footfall in high streets rose a modest 0.7%.

It meant that the gap from pre-pandemic 2019 footfall widened to -13.5% from -9.3% in the week before, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard, which dented hopes of the recovery gathering pace.

Despite footfall activity in Central London and regional cities outside the capital declining by -0.4% and -3.1% respectively, there was a significant rise of 4.4% in Springboard's Central London ‘Back to the Office’ benchmark, which tracks Central London footfall in areas closest to offices.

The gap in footfall from 2019 for the ‘Back to the Office’ benchmark is now smaller than that for Central London as a whole, at -17.1% versus -21.8% across Central London. In conjunction with the fact that in outer London the gap from 2019 stands at just -11.4%, it indicates that Central London has still got a way to go in its recovery.

Additionally, footfall rose in outer London by 3.4% and in market towns by +2.7%, which perhaps points to working from home still being rife.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “Footfall in UK retail destinations fell back a little last week, resulting in a widening of the gap from the 2019 footfall level from what we hoped was a turning point the week before last when the gap from 2019 narrowed to below -10%.

“Footfall also dropped across all town types other than outer London and market towns, initially suggesting that the return to the office had slowed as a greater resilience in these town types are synonymous with home working.

“However, this was countered by a rise in Springboard's Central London ‘Back to the Office’ benchmark - which tracks footfall in areas of Central London in close proximity to offices - whilst footfall in Central London as a whole declined. The gap in footfall from 2019 in Central London last week remained twice as large as in outer London.”

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