06 October 2020, 09:03 AM
  • As footfall drops on the UK’s high streets, small businesses are calling for more support
Retail footfall drops as 10pm curfew hits the sector

Footfall on the UK’s high streets fell by 7.1% over the last week as the government’s 10pm hospitality curfew takes its toll on the retail sector.

According to data from Springboard, shopping centre footfall remained flat, while in retail parks it rose by 0.8%. However, high streets struggled to attract shoppers, and the decline in footfall between 7pm and 11pm was about twice as great as that between 7am and 7pm.

While footfall was down in part due to the rainy weather, Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director, said the government’s hospitality curfew was also to blame. “The 10pm curfew is clearly having an impact; whilst shopping centres and retail parks with only minimal evening economy activity are holding their own, high streets – where the majority of evening economy activity occurs – are feeling the effect, with a drop in footfall post 7pm that is twice as great as that during working hours, and four times as great post 11pm.”

Despite the recent boost from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, footfall across all retail destinations was 31.4% lower than last year, having dropped by 3.5% week-on-week. It marks the second consecutive week – and only the third week since the beginning of May – that footfall across all retail destinations has declined. According to Springboard, footfall in high streets is now more than a third lower than it was in 2019.

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), has called on the government to provide more support for small businesses as the winter – and the prospect of tougher restrictions on the economy – loom on the horizon. “More help is going to be needed to avoid thousands of businesses and jobs going under,” Cherry said.

Responding to a speech by Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party Conference, he said: “The Chancellor said he wants to help small businesses to adapt while creating support and extending opportunities, but any further restrictions on trading must have an economic support package attached.” Cherry added that the government must address the “large gaps” in support, including for company directors and start-ups.

“With local lockdowns of varying degrees taking part right across the UK, it is vital that viable small firms impacted by curtailed footfall, curfews and forced closures are given the support they need to reopen again once measures are lifted.”

For now, under the 10pm curfew, independent fine food retailers are not likely to feel much impact. For instance, Mark Kacary, managing director of The Norfolk Deli, says that his business, which is open between 9am and 4pm, is not impacted by the curfew. “I think the 10pm curfew is primarily affecting urban areas. City living is very different to where we are on the North Norfolk Coast; the night time economy doesn’t exist here in the way it does within cities.”

Has your business been impacted by the 10pm curfew? Get in touch with courtney.goldsmith@aceville.co.uk

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