Empty office blocks leave city centres bare
Covering the four weeks 2 – 29 August 2020
According to BRC-ShopperTrak data:
- UK footfall decreased by 34.8% in August, with only a 7.3 percentage point improvement from July. This remains below the longer-term 12-month average decline of 27.6%.
- Footfall on high streets declined by 41.7% year on year. This was the worst performing location in August, falling below Shopping centres for the first time since April 2018.
- Retail parks saw footfall decrease by 11.1% year on year. Wider open spaces, a higher proportion of supermarkets and larger stores quicker to reopen helped to shelter retail parks from a steeper decline.
- Shopping centre footfall declined by 37.4% year on year. This was over 10 percentage points shallower than in July, but remained below its 12-month average decline of 32.2%.
- Northern Ireland saw the shallowest shopping centre footfall decline of all regions, with
-13.2%. Wales saw a shallower rate of decline than the UK average, with -32.4% but Scotland was some way behind with -42.8%.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief-executive of British Retail Consortium, said:
“Footfall remained well below normal levels in August. In-store discounting and demand for school wear helped lure some customers back to the shops, but with many office blocks still empty and much of the public avoiding public transport, footfall is not returning to towns and city centres and this is having a devastating effect on the local economies in these areas.
“While many businesses have been investing in making workplaces safer, we are unlikely to see significant growth in footfall while government advice remains to ‘work from home if you can.’ Unless this changes, more should be done to encourage people to travel and reassure them that public transport is safe. Government should also recognise that, while footfall is so low, many businesses will not be able to manage their fixed costs – rent & business rates in particular – and unnecessary job losses and store closures will follow.”
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant – EMEA of ShopperTrak, said:
“Footfall in the UK continued to improve throughout August, with a marked upturn in the final week. This can in part be attributed to the last days of the “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign, and Back To School shopping. Retail parks continued to lead the way for recovery, with shopping centres catching up, while high streets are still lagging. With many people still working from home, high streets in many major cities desperately await the return of tourist and office commuter footfall.
“August also saw the UK recovery climb to second amongst its European peers, behind France. Whilst this is encouraging to see, retailers are dealing with traffic levels that are still around a third lower than the same time last year. As retailers prepare to ramp up stock and promotions for the “golden quarter” this will be a defining period for many retail businesses. “