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We have updated our High Street Recovery Tracker, in association with Nationwide Building Society. The new data shows recovery in footfall up until the first week of December. It therefore shows the impact of both the second national lockdown in England and the restrictions for each tier on city centre footfall.
Although all city centres in the UK experienced a decline in footfall when restrictions were introduced early November, nowhere in the country saw activity drop to the levels seen last spring. On average, while the weekly minimum reached back in April/May was 15 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, it was twice as high in November (Figure 1).
That said, as often when we talk about high streets recovery, there is wide variation between places. Breaking down by city size tells us two things. The first is that activity in larger cities fell much further than in small and medium-sized cities (29, 46 and 38 per cent of pre-lockdown levels respectively), which echoes the patterns seen during the first lockdown. The second is that in smaller cities, the impact of the second lockdown was much more muted than in large cities and London.
Figure 1: Weekly minimum footfall during both lockdowns
|City size||1st lockdown- weekly minimum footfall recovery (%)||2nd lockdown- weekly minimum footfall recovery (%)||Difference between both lockdowns|
Source: Locomizer, 2020
On 2 December, the second national lockdown was replaced by the now familiar three-tier system, where the severity of the restrictions depends on the infection rate in a local area.
Footfall data up until the first week of December shows that the stricter the rules, the smaller the bounce-back. Averaged across all city centres, a week after the national lockdown ended, recovery was at 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels for cities placed under Tier 2, and 53 per cent in cities under Tier 3.
Take Liverpool and Manchester, for example, where the contrast is quite striking. In Liverpool, which was placed under Tier 2, the early December footfall recovery was at 48 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, against 30 per cent in Manchester. This divide was seen in the evening too, with footfall rising to 41 per cent of February levels, compared to 18 per cent in Manchester city centre.
But there are exceptions. In London, despite being in Tier 2 for the first two weeks of December, activity reached only 30 per cent. This is less than the average for all Tier 2 cities (57 per cent) and Tier 3 cities like Bristol and Nottingham (42 and 45 per cent recovery respectively).
And in smaller cities, there is hardly any difference. The strong average recovery for small cities in Tier 3 is driven by strong bounce-backs in Mansfield and Burnley in particular (Figure 2).
Figure 2: City size and recovery
Source: Locomizer, 2020. Note: Liverpool is the only large city in Tier 2.
2020 has clearly been a bruising year for the high street, and restrictions in the run up to Christmas, its most important time, is likely to have compounded this. Businesses on the high street will no doubt be hoping for a brighter 2021, and Centre for Cities will continue to track how this recovery plays out on the High Streets Recovery Tracker.
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