UK footfall seems to be on the rise again. Powered in part by the much discussed ‘return to the office’.

 

18 months of lockdowns, restrictions and Covid caution has caused untold concern for anyone working in retail or hospitality.

There were some gains back in April when rules were relaxed. We also saw further positive signs in August following our long awaited independence day. Despite these much needed boosts there was still one key factor missing. The return of office workers into the mix.

A topic of much debate, the work from home / return to office dynamic has featured heavily in conversations about ‘back to normal’ ever since Covid introduced a new reality..

Pre-covid scepticism about working from home

The calls for flexible working have existed for quite some time now. Arguments have been made that remote working improves the home life balance, allowing more time with family and saving time and money on gruelling (and arguably unnecessary) commutes, thus improving overall employee wellbeing.

Unfortunately for remote work hopefuls it has long run into roadblocks since it begun.

Companies have fretted about flexible working for a while. Larger organisations especially were sceptical about productivity levels should WFH become the new normal.

 

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Work from home finds an unlikely friend

One of the unexpected side effects of Covid was the realisation that remaining in the office wasn’t essential. In fact most tasks appeared to be possible from the comfort of ones home (or bed).
This was a realisation both from employers and employees and resulted in a lightening quick change of attitudes. Now that people realised remote working was doable, it was expected as part of a post-covid world.

Delloite Survey

A Deloitte survey back in April highlighted some interesting trends. Despite boding well for the prospects of remote workers, it spelled danger for industries relying on bums on office chairs.

According to Delloite, 7.5 millions workers wanted to remain at home full-time when the lockdown was over.

On top of this 42% wanted to remain home at least twice a week with only 28% opting to be back in the office full time.

Understanding Society Survey

Separate findings,  this time from an Understanding Society survey pointed to similar results

88% of people who worked remotely during lockdown wished to continue with 47% wishing to do it permanently or at least most of the time.

The Conclusion

The message was clear. Most employees wanted flexible working as part of their 9-5.

Some companies were quick to include this as part of their strategy. Lloyd’s were thinking about this as quickly as August 2020. Considering this was only a few months after the first lockdown, it shows the impact Covid had.

Not all organisations shared this sentiment however.

 

 

This image shows a buys workspace following the return to the office

UK footfall rises as return to office begins

Despite the promised land of a paid role from the comfort of one’s home, employers desire to get people back in the office has been visible for quite some time.

With the worst of Covid hopefully behind us, many workers have found themselves returning to their desks. Some to to collaborate and see colleagues and others because they had to.

For those that must now pry themselves from a warm bed at 7 in the morning to commute two hours this may not be optimal.

For those that operate the bars, shops and cafes across the UK however, this couldn’t have come soon enough.

Springboard data shows return to office boost

Large city centres have seen the bulk of this lifeline. Data from Springboard, covering the 18th-25th of September shows a 6.5% boost in London and 6.1% in other large city centres from the previous week. Overall footfall rose by around 2.7%.

Broken down by types of location, high streets saw a 3.7% hike with shopping centres seeing a 2.3% increase.

While these figures might seem small, the marked increase will provide a much needed boost to a beleaguered industry. As well as the rise in footfall itself, those in retail and hospitality will be hoping that this trend continues.

The more optimistic among them will be dreaming of pre-pandemic levels of human traffic before too long.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “High street footfall was undoubtedly supported by a shift back to the office, demonstrated by a greater uplift from the week before in Central London and large city centres outside of the capital, than in smaller high streets and in Outer London. In areas of Central London with a large proportion of office rather than retail space, footfall rose by more than in Central London as a whole.”ace, footfall rose by more than in Central London as a whole.”

 

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Will the rise in footfall continue following the return to office boost?

As discussed, one of the key factors in rising footfall is the return of workers to offices. It’s difficult to say which way the pendulum will swing as far as this goes.

Considering we are at the start of employees returning to their desks it is likely that footfall will indeed rise, barring another Winter lockdown (god forbid).

Whatever happens, it’s certain that offices will not be as widely used as they were pre-pandemic.

This means that it’s unlikely that footfall will get back to it’s peak and therefore, retail outlets will need to adjust accordingly.

Some will of course downsize, with the transition to a digital first business having been on the cards for a number of years.

For others that need boots on the ground the question remains. How best to coax back the masses to the shop floor?

Find out how a lost property system can help bring back customers

If you’re trying to coax customer back it’s important to remember that providing a positive customer experience is key. A good lost property system makes up part of this and shouldn’t be forgotten.

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