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Office return lifts central London retail footfall but UK gloom not over

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Empty retail space shop to let on Marylebone High Street on 10th August 2021 in London, United Kingdom. Marylebone High Street is a grand and upmarket shopping street in London. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
It was a mixed picture for footfall across the UK as people returned to schools and offices. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty

Last week UK retail footfall declined 4.2% compared with the week before, new data has shown. The greatest declines occurred in shopping centres and retail parks (-7.7% and -4.7% respectively). Central London, however, experienced a bump as people returned to offices. 

Data provider Springboard's weekly monitor showed that in some locations such as coastal towns, footfall was down as much as 10.4% as traffic abated following the beginning of the school term. 

Outer London and market towns were a bright spot, however, with traffic up 3% and 2.6% respectively. 

"Working at home is clearly supporting high streets generally, with a decline in high street footfall across the UK last week from the week before that was less than a third of that in shopping centres and half that in retail parks," said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard. 

Across central London as a whole footfall dropped by -7.8%. 

Despite this, Springboard's "Central London Back to Office Footfall Benchmark," which tracks footfall in key Central London locations where offices are located, showed a rise in footfall of 4.2% suggesting that a drift back to offices for some employees may have started.

Read more: Business chief warns of backlash over corporation tax rises

The drop in footfall across all retail destinations meant that the gap from the 2019 footfall level widened last week to -17.3% from -15.8% in the week before. 

In contrast, the uplift in footfall in market towns and in Outer London meant that footfall in both last week was 15% below the 2019 level, compared with a decline of 34.7% in central London and 21% in regional cities outside of the capital.

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