Visits to shopping centers and high streets dip below pre-pandemic levels | retail industry

Visits to high streets and shopping centers dipped to below pre-pandemic levels last month, with the north of England – plus Scotland and Northern Ireland – trailing behind the south in terms of the overall recovery from Covid-fueled gloom.

Footfall decreased by 14% in July compared with 2019, reversing gains made in April, as retailers struggled to entice shoppers amid a heatwave in the third week of the month and surging inflation.

Shopping centers were the worst-hit, down 18.6% compared with July 2019, while visits to high streets fell by 17% and retail parks were down 3.5%.

The data from Springboard showed the UK-wide footfall for July had increased by 15.6% compared with last year, 2021. But the rate of recovery indicates an increasing north-south divide.

Between January and July, footfall increased month on month by an average of 1.8% in London compared with just 0.4% in the north and Yorkshire.

The figures indicate that rising inflation and the cost of living crisis is being more acutely felt outside the capital, with July footfall up by 27.4% on 2021 in London compared with 8.9% in the north and Yorkshire, 7.3% in Northern Ireland and 9.2% in Scotland.

Diane Wehrle of Springboard said: “The north-south divide in footfall recovery is not a recent trend and stretches back to July 2021. However, the extent of the divide has increased significantly over recent months.”

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Despite retail prices rising, with some retailers charging up to 50% more in the UK than in their EU stores, a footfall increase of 1% over the seven months to the end of July, compared with a decrease of 0.5% over the pre- Covid decade, shows there is still a demand for in-store shopping.

Wehrle said: “We would normally expect footfall to peak in August and then dip in September as the school summer break ends.

“However, in light of the increasing strain on household budgets as a consequence of inflation, this year we are anticipating that in August footfall will plateau or even drop away marginally by around 1% from July, followed by a decline of around 3% over the month between August and September.”

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