Office return lifts central London retail footfall but UK gloom not over

·2 min read
Empty retail space shop to let on Marylebone High Street on 10th August 2021 in London, United Kingdom. Marylebone High Street is a grand and upmarket shopping street in London. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
It was a mixed picture for footfall across the UK as people returned to schools and offices. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty

Last week UK retail footfall declined 4.2% compared with the week before, new data has shown. The greatest declines occurred in shopping centres and retail parks (-7.7% and -4.7% respectively). Central London, however, experienced a bump as people returned to offices. 

Data provider Springboard's weekly monitor showed that in some locations such as coastal towns, footfall was down as much as 10.4% as traffic abated following the beginning of the school term. 

Outer London and market towns were a bright spot, however, with traffic up 3% and 2.6% respectively. 

"Working at home is clearly supporting high streets generally, with a decline in high street footfall across the UK last week from the week before that was less than a third of that in shopping centres and half that in retail parks," said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard. 

Across central London as a whole footfall dropped by -7.8%. 

Despite this, Springboard's "Central London Back to Office Footfall Benchmark," which tracks footfall in key Central London locations where offices are located, showed a rise in footfall of 4.2% suggesting that a drift back to offices for some employees may have started.

Read more: Business chief warns of backlash over corporation tax rises

The drop in footfall across all retail destinations meant that the gap from the 2019 footfall level widened last week to -17.3% from -15.8% in the week before. 

In contrast, the uplift in footfall in market towns and in Outer London meant that footfall in both last week was 15% below the 2019 level, compared with a decline of 34.7% in central London and 21% in regional cities outside of the capital.

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting