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City centre retail continues to struggle as office blocks remain empty

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As office blocks remain closed, city centre retail has continued to struggle with lack of footfall.

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%.

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Footfall on high streets declined by 41.7% year on year making it the worst performing location in August, falling below shopping centres for the first time since April 2018.

This comes as 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.

Looking at shopping centres specifically, 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%.

 Commenting on the figures, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, 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.”

Adding: “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.”

Tags : retail
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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