UK high street recovery 'stalled' by lockdown

Kumutha Ramanathan
·2 min read
London high street
Posters designed by poet and artist Robert Montgomery can be seen on a high street in west London. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Recovery of the UK’s high streets stalled in September as the summer shopping boom ended, according to the latest data from the Centre for Cities High Streets Recovery Tracker.

Overall footfall in cities and large towns increased by just 1% last month. This is 17% lower than the increase seen in July and August.

“The roll out of increased local restrictions and lockdowns, with a quarter of the UK population placed under stricter rules in September, could be undermining consumer confidence in bricks-and-mortar shopping,” said Andy Sumpter, EMEA retail consultant at ShopperTrak.

“We can also see that this has been particularly hard felt in the North West, and notably in Manchester, an area on local lockdown since the end of July, where footfall fell to -40%.”

Sumpter added that the UK is at a “critical point” as retailers are readying themselves for the start of the Golden Quarter and Christmas trading.

READ MORE: UK economy slows further in August despite Eat Out to Help Out

Bournemouth and many other tourist destinations, such as Blackpool, Brighton, York and Edinburgh, also saw significant drops in the numbers of visitors in September, raising concerns that the initial recovery seen in the UK economy may have been short-lived.

Further restrictions are coming as well. The UK government is reportedly considering a ban on overnight visits away from home in the North and Midlands.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said on Thursday that the government was "currently considering what steps to take" in terms of further restrictions.

Given these looming concerns, “policy makers need to think hard about how to support places through the difficult months ahead,” said Centre for Cities’ chief executive Andrew Carte.

“The Job Support Scheme and related measures will help but, as the Chancellor said, it can’t support every job,” he added.

Carte suggested the UK government could provide a greater devolution of powers and responsibilities “to help places help themselves” in the near term.