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October footfall shows optimistic start to holiday season

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

4 Nov 2021

Retail

Image: London's Regent Street via Pexels

October’s footfall figures could spell a positive holiday season, as high street, shopping centres and retail parks was down -13.4 percent than in 2019, compared with -17.4 percent in September.

Springboard’s monthly footfall figures are hugely encouraging and in line with the company’s forecast for Q4 of 2021. The final week of the month, which included the October school half term, was pivotal in boosting footfall, shifting the average from -14.3 percent over the first three weeks to -10.9 percent in the last week of the month.

In the final week of the month, it was high streets and shopping centres that benefited most. Footfall in high streets strengthened from an average of -15.8 percent over the first three weeks to -12.1 percent in the last week, and in shopping centres footfall shifted from -21.5 percent over the first three weeks to -15.9 percent. In contrast, in retail parks footfall in overall terms has bounced back far more to pre-Covid level, however, during half term week the gain was more modest, from an average over the first three weeks of -3.2 percent to -2.7 percent in the last week of the month.

Springboard said UK city centre footfall also improved in October, which in the continued absence of overseas tourists, suggests that the drift back to the office is accelerating. Footfall in Central London moved upward from -32.2 percent in September to -22.2 percent in October, and in regional cities outside of the capital, footfall in October reached -15.7 percent below the 2019 level from -19.3 percent in September.

Whilst footfall is recovering, the vacancy rate remains high at 11.7 percent which is only a very marginal improvement from July when it was 11.8 percent. This is despite the growth of pop-up stores that are a typical feature of retail destinations in the run up to Christmas, but which should be even more prevalent now given the greater availability of empty space. However, this is not a surprising outcome as the vacancy rate is both a lagged and sticky indicator. The complexities of the leasing market and the heavy burden of business rates hinders the reoccupation of empty units whilst also often forcing unviable retailers to continue to trade, highlighting its limitations as the sole indicator for determining bricks and mortar retail performance.

Article source: Springboard