UK retail footfall slides as hospitality curfew and remote working hit shopping

A man wearing a facemask in Manchester city centre as the row over Greater Manchester's coronavirus status continues.
A man wearing a facemask in Manchester city centre. Figures show retail footfall is down in major cities outside London. Photo: PA

Retail footfall dropped last week as increased government restrictions hampered firms’ hopes of recovery from the pandemic, according to new figures.

Shopper numbers slid in retail parks, shopping centres and high streets alike, down 3.1% on the previous week. Footfall is now down almost a third on a year ago, with larger cities hardest hit.

Retail data firm Springboard, which compiled the data, said curbs including the 10pm hospitality curfew and encouraging workers to work remotely where possible had hit footfall.

The North and Yorkshire, which include some of the areas with the highest infection rates in the UK, saw the steepest week-to-week decline in footfall.

“Given the far greater restrictions in the north of England, it is not surprising that the decline in  footfall in the North & Yorkshire region of 5% from the week before was the highest of any area of  the UK,” said Springboard’s analysis published on Monday.

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Cities outside London have also seen greater week-to-week declines than the capital, coastal and market towns. Footfall was down 5.7% to less than half of the levels seen a year ago.

But footfall is lowest compared with a year earlier in Wales, down 38.1%, though it was one of the few parts of the UK to see slight gains in footfall week-to-week. Shopper numbers edged 0.2% higher, before a two-week “firebreak” lockdown was announced on Monday.

Springboard noted that high street footfall after 6pm was down 4.5%, nearly double the daytime decline of 2.4%. It linked the decline to the 10pm closure of hospitality.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: The additional Covid tiered restrictions had an immediate impact on footfall in retail destinations  last week with an across the board week on week decline; the fourth consecutive drop and also  greater than that in previous weeks.

“Somewhat inevitably, given the advice for people to work from home and the increased restrictions  on travel, footfall regional cities declined by significantly more than in smaller towns around the  UK.”

“The 10pm closure of hospitality is having a clear impact on high street activity during the evening,  with far greater declines in footfall post 6pm than over the daytime trading period of 9am to 6pm.”

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