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Footfall figures suggest Eat Out to Help Out boosted visitor numbers to shops

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Visitor numbers to retail stores continued to improve as a result of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme – but remain down on the same time last year, new figures suggest. The final full week of the scheme – which finished yesterday – saw the strongest recovery in footfall, across all types of location, since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, according to data from Springboard.

Footfall across the UK rose by 6% in the week ending August 29 compared to the previous week, but was still down by 26.1% compared to the same time last year. Retail parks (-7.7%) are now closer to where they were last year, with visitor numbers still well down on high streets (-34.9%) and at shopping centres (-25.6%). However, shopping centres (9.1%) saw a faster improvement compared to the previous week than high streets (+4.8%) and retail parks (+5%). Coastal (-29.3% year—on-year (YOY), +3.5% week-on-week (WOW)) and historic (-29% YOY, +4.8% WOW) towns have also seen business improve faster than central London (-55.4% YOY, +6.8% WOW) and regional cities (-43.4% YOT, +7.6% WOW) although these latter locations have seen a faster improvement over the last week. 

On the August bank holiday Monday alone, footfall was down by 11% YOY across locations, with the only year-on-year improvement seen at retail parks (+2.5%), contrasting with declines in shopping centres (-10.9%) and high streets (-17.3%). 

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “The last full week of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme led to the most positive footfall result of any week so far with increases in all three destination types from the week before, and year on year declines that were the most modest since the start of the lock down. Not only did the week as a whole yield far more positive results those previously but, given the situation we find ourselves in and the much cooler weather this year, the Bank Holiday weekend proved to be a remarkable success for retail destinations.”

Shops have suffered from falling footfall and falling sales since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, while online sales have risen sharply. However that may not be a one way change with schemes such as Eat Out to Help Out helping to restore public confidence in visiting both leisure and retail locations. 

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