Footfall in UK retail destinations declined by -4.2% last week from the week before, despite Central London starting to show signs of an office return for workers, according to the latest data from Springboard.
The greatest declines occurred in shopping centres and retail parks, down -7.7% and -4.7% respectively, but by only -2.2% in high streets.
Springboard found that whilst footfall dropped by -10.4% in coastal towns, it rose in both market towns (2.6%) and in Outer London (3%).
Across Central London as a whole footfall dropped by -7.8%, however, 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 might have started”.
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 of these two town types last week was -15% below the 2019 level, compared with -34.7% in Central London and -21% in regional cities outside of the capital.
Diane Wehrle, Insights director at Springboard, said: “If any evidence is required as to the relevance of footfall as an indicator of consumer activity it was provided by the results for last week; the commencement of the school term and the return to work of those who had been on holiday led to a decline in footfall across all retail destinations last week from the week before, with a far greater drop in activity in coastal towns which had been visited by many for staycations and daycations over the summer.
“In contrast, footfall rose from the week before in both Outer London town centres and in Market Towns whilst declining in both Central London and in regional cities outside of the capital, demonstrating that the majority of employees continue to work from home.”
She added: “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.
“Although it is evident that the vast majority of employees are continuing to work from home, it seems that the drift back to offices might have commenced; Springboard’s ‘Central London Back to Office Footfall Benchmark’ showed a rise in footfall last week from the week before whilst across Central London as a whole footfall declined.”