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Central London footfall rises as office workers return

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Bond Street has been almost deserted since the start of the pandemic.

A steady rise in retail footfall through August and early September means that the UK as a whole is now just 17.3% less busy than the same week in the pre-pandemic period in 2019.

Retail analyst Springboard reports that footfall dipped slightly last week by 4.2% compared to the week before, but is still closing in on the sort of levels seen two years ago.

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Central London has been the slowest to return to normality, and remains 34.7% below the 2019 level. Regional cities are also still 27.6% quieter.

Coastal, historic and market towns are closest to normal footfall, down by 11-15% during the past week compared to the same seven days in 2019.

Across Central London as a whole footfall dropped by 7.8% week on week. However, 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%.

“If any evidence is required as to the relevance of footfall as an indicator of consumer activity it was provided by the results for last week; the commencement of the school term and the return to work of those who had been on holiday led to a decline in footfall across all retail destinations last week from the week before, with a far greater drop in activity in coastal towns which had been visited by many for staycations and daycations over the summer,” says Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

“In contrast, footfall rose from the week before in both Outer London town centres and in Market Towns whilst declining in both Central London and in regional cities outside of the capital, demonstrating that the majority of employees continue to work from home.  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.

“Although it is evident that the vast majority of employees are continuing to work from home, it seems that the drift back to offices might have commenced; Springboard’s “Central London Back to Office Footfall Benchmark” (which comprises only those locations in areas with offices rather than retail) showed a rise in footfall last week from the week before whilst across Central London as a whole footfall declined.”

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