High street recovery stutters after initial surge in footfall

UK footfall in August suggests a turning point for retail
"This boost puts bricks and mortar retail in a good place at what is the start of Q4" : Springboard.
// Visitor footfall to city & town centres drops in June after initial surge, with tourist hubs worse hit, Centre for Cities says
// Weekend visitors to Blackpool and Bournemouth almost halve in June
// Big city centres continue to struggle with London seeing the weakest recovery of all centres

New data suggests that the recovery of the high street since the reopening of non-essential retail in mid-April may be stuttering, with tourist destinations bearing the brunt.

According to the Centre for Cities’ latest High Streets Recovery Tracker, the recovery of high streets took a hit in June as footfall fell back across the UK – raising concerns about the UK economy’s bounce-back from Covid-19 restrictions.

Seaside and tourist destinations saw the sharpest drops in visitor numbers between the end of May and end of June, with visitors to central Blackpool and Bournemouth falling by by almost half.


Meanwhile, weekend visitors to other tourist destinations such as Brighton, York and Edinburgh also fell steeply.

Centre for Cities found that overall weekly footfall numbers fell by the end of June in 62 of the 63 city and town centres studied.

It added that on average, overall footfall in large city and town centres fell by seven percentage points.

City or large town (selected seaside and tourist destinations)

Weekend footfall
Fall in footfall from last weekend of May to last weekend of June (percentage point)
Weekly footfall
Overall fall in footfall from end of May to end of June (percentage point)
Blackpool -45 -18
Bournemouth -45 -15
Brighton -39 -16
Southend -36 -12
York -28 -14
Portsmouth -25 -12
Oxford -23 -10

Pubs, bars and restaurants are also likely to have taken an economic hit as night-time visitors to city and town centres fell by six percentage points between the last weekend of May and last weekend of June.

Despite the fall, Centre for Cities said small and medium city and town centres continued to enjoy the strongest recovery overall since lockdown restrictions were lifted, while bigger cities continued to struggle.

Southend, Blackpool and Basildon have come back strongest, with footfall being more than 70 per cent of February 2020 levels.

However, London and other large city centres lag a long way behind – footfall in the centre of the capital was at just under a third of February 2020 levels.

Rank City or large town Overall footfall recovery in last week of June (February 2020 = 100)
Top 10
1 Southend 81
2 Blackpool 77
3 Basildon 72
4 Chatham 72
5 Burnley 72
6 Aldershot 71
7 Mansfield 69
8 Gloucester 68
9 Wigan 68
10 Barnsley 67
Bottom 10
54 Milton Keynes 50
55 Liverpool 50
56 Nottingham 49
57 Aberdeen 48
58 Cardiff 46
59 Leeds 46
60 Glasgow 43
61 Manchester 41
62 Birmingham 41
63 London 33

“Much discussion in the lead up to restrictions being lifted was about the amount of pent up demand that lockdowns had created, and the likely splurge in spending as a result,” Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said.

“But while there was an initial jump, the data suggests this may have faltered.

“The weather and growing Covid-19 cases may be reasons for this, but with the end of the furlough scheme is in sight, high street businesses and workers will be hoping that the removal of restrictions on 19th July will help to sustain the high street’s recovery and bring more people back to the centre of our cities.”

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