Dec 6, 2021
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West End footfall "flatlines" despite busy Saturday, other cities are weak

Dec 6, 2021

Footfall in London’s West End was flat in the week starting November 29, The New West End Company said on Monday. That was despite NWEC reporting an increase on Saturday. Meanwhile, Springboard said that footfall to cities outside London declined during the week.

Photo: Nigel Taylor

The West End drop was despite NWEC reporting an increase on Saturday. And Fashionnetwork.com staffers also reported Saturday visitor traffic on Oxford Street and the surrounding streets that “felt almost normal, with shoppers out in force”. Sunday was reportedly busy too, but less so than Saturday.

UK consumers clearly felt the pull of Christmas on Saturday and in the West End, the figures showed footfall up 23% week-on-week on that day alone.

But NWEC said that weaker footfall over the rest of the week meant that visitor traffic remained down as much as 30% on pre-pandemic levels across the seven-day period.

London continues to suffer from the absence of the tourists who used to be a mainstay of its key shopping districts, as well as the office workers who haven’t yet returned to their workplaces or have only returned part-time.

NWEC believes the impact of Government messaging around the Omicron Covid variant, combined with the latest round of tube strikes could have contributed to the flat footfall figures across the period. But it also expects that the Saturday rush could be “a strong sign that visitor numbers will start to increase this week as we build up to Christmas and people look to enjoy the West End's festive offer”.

But Omicron could derail that expectation. On Monday, Springboard also said that the early impact of the variant is suggested by a 2% decline inits Central London Back to the Office Benchmark. In addition, footfall in large cities outside the capital declined by 3.8% from the week before, while it rose by 1% in small market towns as more shoppers stayed local.

In the UK as a whole for the week, Springboard said footfall rose by 0.7% in all retail destinations from the week before. This was derived from rises in shopping centres that saw an increase of 2.3% and retail parks where footfall increased by 1.3%, while footfall in high streets declined marginally by 0.4%.

Footfall in central London as a whole (that is, not just the West End), rose 0.5%, but in retail areas, it rose 1.8%, “which shows a focus on Christmas shopping”. 

Footfall over the week was impacted by a decline on Friday of 5% overall, and by 10.3% in shopping centres which were hit by a tough comparison to Black Friday in the previous week. 

The gap in footfall from the 2019 level stood at -17.4% last week, but footfall was 43% higher than in 2020.

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