Return to the office and lifting of Covid restrictions gives high street footfall a slight boost

25 April 2022

High street footfall increased 7 per cent in March 2022, from the previous month*, according to RSM’s analysis of the latest data from Datscha.

This has been driven by the return to the office and removal of all Covid restrictions in the UK which has given footfall levels a much-needed boost. Brighton and Nottingham led the way, with increases in footfall of 13 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. However, Guildford and Leeds were the outliers, seeing a slight fall in footfall of 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, footfall is still 36 per cent lower than in 2019**, with the biggest decreases in London (down 56 per cent), Manchester (down 52 per cent) and Newcastle (down 47 per cent).

Jacqui Baker, partner and head of retail, comments: ‘The overall increase in footfall is welcome news for the retail sector, and whilst big cities are still lagging behind when compared to pre-pandemic levels, the only way is up from here. Covid restrictions have only just been lifted, and with an increasing number of workers returning to the office, it’s likely the high street will start to see higher levels of footfall in the coming months.

‘The increased flexibility from hybrid working and high levels of Covid cases may have hampered the increase in footfall for big cities as people take the decision to stay at home to prevent spreading any illness with colleagues. In addition, international travel continues to hit footfall in major cities, such as London, so many retailers will be hoping for a summertime boost as we start to welcome more tourists back to the UK.

‘Despite cautious optimism for future footfall, the cost of living crisis is a major challenge for retailers, which has caused consumer confidence to plummet. Coupled with soaring energy prices, increased interest rates and higher NIC tax contributions, consumers are having to re-evaluate their spending habits. As a consequence, this will prevent some people from hitting the high street.’

* 6.8m (February 2022) vs 7.2m (March 2022).
** 11.3m (March 2019) vs 7.2m (March 2022).