‘High street footfall dropped in July; North-south divide widens’

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Visits to high streets and shopping centres 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-fuelled gloom, stated recent data from Springboard, suggesting heatwave in the third week of the month and surging inflation hindered shoppers’ visit. 

Footfall decreased by 14 per cent in July compared with 2019, reversing gains made in April, shows recent data. Shopping centres were the worst-hit, down 18.6 per cent compared with July 2019, while visits to high streets fell by 17 per cent and retail parks were down 3.5 per cent. 

The data from Springboard showed the UK-wide footfall for July had increased by 15.6 per cent 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 per cent in London compared with just 0.4 per cent 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 per cent on 2021 in London compared with 8.9 per cent in the north and Yorkshire, 7.3 per cent in Northern Ireland and 9.2 per cent in Scotland. 

“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,” Diane Wehrle of Springboard 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 one per cent from July, followed by a decline of around three per cent over the month between August and September,” Wehrle said.