Working from home takes toll on East’s high streets as festive period ends

People shopping on Black Friday at Gentleman's Walk in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Shopper numbers in East of England declined in the week from January 2, 2022, Springboard figures show - Credit: Danielle Booden

Home working has dented post-new year shopper footfall in the East of England – but the week-on-week decline was less severe than across the UK as a whole, new figures reveal.

High streets bore the brunt as fewer shoppers emerged across the region in the week beginning January 2. It suffered a week-on-week decline of 1.6% – lower than the UK average of -6%, retail analyst Springboard said.

Footfall in the East across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks was still 21.2% lower than during the same comparable period in pre-pandemic 2019 – showing there is still a long way to go on the road to recovery for physical retail, its figures show.

Across all UK retail destinations, it was -21.8% lower than the same week in 2019, with high streets down 30.9% and shopping centres down 23.9%. Retail parks took a negligible 0.2% dip compared to 2019 levels, as shoppers re-stocked following the festive break.

Week-on-week, it was high streets that bore the brunt with a 10.9% drop across the UK, while shopping centres saw a -4.4% decline. Footfall in retail parks was up 2.9% on the previous week.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said the story of a footfall decline post-return to work was a familiar one, as it had fallen every year since 2011.

“The magnitude of the drop in footfall last week was almost identical to that in the same week in 2019 and slightly lower than in the same week in 2020,” she pointed out.

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“However, the drop only occurred in high streets and shopping centres, while in retail parks footfall rose marginally from the week before which in part will have been driven by households replenishing groceries and household products. 

“High streets bore the brunt of the drop in shopper activity, with the decline from the New Year week more than twice that in shopping centres, although to some degree shopping centre footfall may have been insulated by the great Christmas present return.”

Footfall declined from the previous week across all parts of the UK and in all types of high street apart from in Outer London where there was a marginal rise, she added. 

“With employees continuing to work from home the drop in footfall in Central London and in other city centres around the UK was far greater than in more local high streets.”

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