High street retailers see footfall decline as cost of living rises

Image above: Chiswick High Rd; photograph Anna Kunst

Footfall 11% lower than it was in 2019

UK retailers have seen a marked drop in footfall over the past few weeks as the cost of living has risen and political uncertainty has played out in the economy.

Retail analysts Springboard measure footfall week by week at this time of year in high streets, retail parks and shopping centres around the whole of the UK. In the week beginning 16 October the drop across all those destinations averaged out at – 2.3% from Sunday to Saturday.

High streets fared worse than retail parks and shopping centres. Whereas the drop in retail parks was – 1.5% and in shopping centres it was – 0.7%, in high streets it was – 3.3%.

To put this in context, footfall in shops and restaurants bounced back after the worst of the pandemic. Compared with this time last year footfall across all UK destinations is up 5.9%, but the economy still has a long way to recover from where it was pre-pandemic. Compared with 2019 footfall it is down by 11.1%.

Several retailers have told us anecdotally that business has been noticeably quieter on Chiswick High Rd over the past few weeks.

Footfall has fallen steadily over the past few weeks

Image: Diane Wehrle

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights director at Springboard told The Chiswick Calendar the drop in footfall last week was noticeable because it occurred every day and was part of a pattern which had shown a decreasing performance week on week over the past few weeks.

“It is indicative of a feeling that people are feeling pressured. Retail footfall is a very good good indicator of consumer confidence. It is a very responsive metric.”

It is responding to what is widely described as an economic crisis — ‘with increasing inflation, rising energy bills and an estimated £40bn hole in the public finances — after weeks of market turmoil following Truss’s “mini” budget’ as the Financial Times puts it.

Image: Simon Emeny

“We need Sunak’s government to focus on the basics”

As the Conservative Party announced Rishi Sunak as the new prime minister the hospitality industry were quick to make it clear what business wants and expects from him.

Kate Nicholls, Chief executive of the hospitality industry’s trade body UK Hospitality, said she hoped Sunak would “end the period of turbulence”.

“The hospitality sector continues to battle soaring energy costs, worker shortages and a cost-of-living crisis dampening consumer confidence, which is threatening the future of thousands of businesses” she said.

Simon Emeny, Chief executive of Fuller, Smith & Turner, which owns many of the pubs in Chiswick, expressed his confidence in the new prime minister:

“He is someone who is confident enough to surround himself with high quality, competent people who are capable of challenging him and we haven’t seen that for the last two or three prime ministers,” he told the FT.

Image: Andrew Dakers

“We need stability of leadership and markets”

Andrew Dakers, Chief Executive at West London Business, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“It’s been all our mantra for weeks.  We need stability of leadership and markets.  Greater stability makes it possible for West London/ Chiswick businesses to plan for the future and invest.

“We also need Sunak’s new government to refocus on the basics: Access to markets, continuing existing work to align the skills system with employer needs as well as a deep understanding of, and action on, barriers to businesses transitioning to net zero.”

Diane Wehrle said:

“For me it’s all about wanting to see support for the retail industry by dealing with the rating system, an archaic, outdated tax which penalises retail businesses by favouring online businesses unfairly.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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