Central London continues to feel impact of Plan B measures

Central London has suffered another blow to its recovery as shoppers stay away from the city’s retail hotspots.

Footfall in the West End and other areas dropped by more than a quarter (25.6 per cent) last week compared to the week before.

“With employees continuing to work from home the drop in footfall in Central London and in other city centres around the UK was far greater than in more local high streets,” Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard said.

Footfall across all UK retail destinations declined by six per cent last week, compared to the week before.

“Somewhat inevitably – given that last week was the first return to work for many after the Christmas and New Year period, footfall declined from the week before,” Wehrle explained.

She added: “Indeed, this is a familiar result in the first week of the year, having occurred every year since 2011, and the magnitude of the drop in footfall last week was almost identical to that in the same week in 2019 and slightly lower than in the same week in 2020.”

At the end of last year, the government instructed people to work from home where they can, in a hammer blow for central London shops and hospitality venues.

Some employees did venture into their offices as the central London ‘back to the office’ benchmark, declined 15.2 per cent. In regional city centres outside the capital, footfall was down 17.1 per cent week on week.

It comes as retailers’ hopes for a bustling Christmas were dashed following the arrival of the Covid Omicron variant last month.

Some shoppers cancelled trips to the capital in favour of online shopping and their local stores.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, previously explained: “While there weren’t any formal government restrictions, aside from the Plan B mask-wearing mandate, placed on retailers in December, concerns about the rapid spread of Omicron dealt a blow to shopper confidence, as consumers self-policed social contacts and limited shopping trips in a bid to save their own Christmases.”

Retailers in the West End have also expressed concerns about ongoing industrial action set to impact the London Underground in the coming weeks.

Tube drivers plan to strike every weekend for the next six months on the Central and Victoria lines, after 8.30pm. The action is set to continue until June 2022.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, said: “The proposed six month strike action hreatens the West End’s night-time economy at a critical point when many businesses will be looking to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

The West End boss called on the RMT union to call off the strikes “in order to give viable hospitality businesses in the capital the best possible chance of survival.”