Being by the sea was not the only factor. More generally, smaller city centres appear to have benefited the most from the scheme to date. In these places, average footfall on Eat Out To Help Out evenings was 12 percentage points higher than in late July. But its impact on larger city centres was more muted – London, Manchester and Sheffield are all in the bottom 10 (Figure 3).
Centre for Cities will publish more analysis on the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme in the coming days.
3. People are still reluctant to return to their offices
Although there’s a rise in people going out for leisure, city centre workers are showing no signs of returning to their offices. This is a nation-wide trend: average weekday city centre footfall has not changed at all since early July, and the number of workers heading back to the office has increased in fewer than half of the UK’s biggest cities and town centres.
This affects larger city centres the most. Their ability to pull in many tens of thousands of workers before lockdown was a real boon for their shops and restaurants. But people’s reluctance to travel for work now becomes an achilles heel. In central London and Manchester, early August footfall rose by just one percentage point compared to early July, while Leeds, Bristol and Nottingham all saw no change. As a result, large city centres currently have just 16 per cent of their workers back behind their desks or counters, compared to 27 per cent in small cities (figure 4).
Figure 4. Workers score
Source: Locomizer (2020).
Shops, restaurants and pubs face an uncertain future while these office workers stay away. So, in the absence of a big increase in people returning to the office, the Government should set out how it will support the people working in city centre retail and hospitality who could soon lose their jobs.