Daily Express

Ghost towns... fear for deserted high streets

- By Elly Blake

OUR high streets were in more trouble yesterday, after it was revealed the UK has seen its biggest ever decline in retail footfall.

The number of people visiting high streets plummeted by 83.3 per cent last month, due to people abiding by Government guidelines to stay at home.

But there was some hope for smaller town centres, which did not experience such a sharp drop compared with major cities.

The Daily Express has long been campaignin­g to Save The High Street, which has struggled even more during the lockdown.

But despite our crusade, retail data provider Springboar­d’s latest monthly footfall monitor report revealed a “decline of unpreceden­ted magnitude”.

Retail parks saw a drop of 68.1 per cent, while trips to shopping centres have decreased by 84.8 per cent, the report found.

It said: “In the first month in which the UK has been in full lockdown, footfall across UK retail destinatio­ns declined by -80.1 per cent, nearly double that in March when it dropped by -41.3 per cent.

“This unpreceden­ted drop in customer activity, which is of a magnitude never seen before, was universal across all three destinatio­n types – high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.”

Things had improved by the second half of the month, moving from an average of 81 per cent to 77.4 per cent over the four weeks.

The data revealed that footfall shifted from large towns and cities towards local shopping areas, with the most modest drops in footfall coming in smaller towns.

The high streets with the greatest drops in footfall were in major cities including London, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Bristol. Meanwhile, small town centres such as Dudley, Prescot and Kenilworth all experience­d less than 60 per cent decrease in footfall in April.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboar­d,

said the data pointed to a change in habits.

She said: “Whilst this is somewhat inevitable given the closure of all but essential stores, it is perhaps indicative of consumers getting into a new rhythm around shopping and working from home.

“Additional­ly, the overriding focus on safe shopping and the greater emphasis on community that has come to the fore means that trips to larger towns and cities have been curtailed.

“Indeed, it is the first evidence available that suggests how consumers may respond to easing of restrictio­ns.

“In contrast to pre-coronaviru­s days, when small high streets were facing an increasing struggle to attract shoppers, the path of recovery for retail may well be led by smaller high streets which can

offer both safety and community benefits.”

It comes as the boss of one of the UK’s biggest budget retailers said that shoppers need to support the high street once lockdown is over.

Barry Williams, managing director of Poundland, said: “When it’s time to reopen, let’s make sure it’s done so we rebuild the high streets and gives them a fighting chance of serving us for generation­s.”

 ?? ?? Empty shopping centre in Croydon
Empty shopping centre in Croydon

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