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City centres kept quiet by fears over Omicron variant

Caution around the new Omicron variant is prompting more people to stay working from home, resulting in footfall to city centres declining again, according to data.

Footfall in large cities outside of London fell by 3.8 per cent last week compared with the week before, according to Springboard data. A central London “back to office benchmark”, which measures only areas in close proximity to offices, recorded a 2 per cent fall.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Last week provided the first evidence of an early impact on footfall of the Omicron variant. While central London is being supported by its retail and leisure offer in the run-up to Christmas, large city centres outside of the capital are not benefiting.”

The start of the Christmas shopping season lifted footfall across the UK’s retail destinations by 0.7 per cent, with shopping centres and retail parks performing better than high streets. Footfall in central London rose by 0.5 per cent as the capital’s retail destinations increased footfall by 1.8 per cent. Footfall in the capital is still 17.4 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels but 43 per cent higher than in 2020.

The north and Yorkshire was the only region to see negative week-on-week growth, according to Springboard, with footfall slipping by 2.3 per cent. Meanwhile, footfall in the east of the country increased by 3.5 per cent. Market towns have performed strongly as more people work from home.

Separately, figures from the British Retail Consoritum showed that Black Friday provided a filip for retailers, with like-for-like sales lifting by 1.8 per cent in November compared with a year earlier and by 4.1 per cent on the same month in 2019. Like-for-like food sales declined by 0.5 per cent year-on-year, while non-food like-for-like sales rose by 3.9 per cent.

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City centres kept quiet by fears over Omicron variant

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