Footfall down on Blackpool and Preston high streets but smaller centres fare better than big cities

Boris Johnson’s plans to open up the economy cannot come soon for traders in the North West’s towns and cities, according to new figures which show footfall amongst the lowest levels since the start of the pandemic.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 3:30 pm

The figures, analysed by the insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, show that smaller centres have continued to fare better than the big cities in terms of footfall – though all have been considerably quieter than the previous year.

In Preston footfall was at 27 per cent and spending at 33 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during the last week in January, while only 6 per cent of workers were back in the city centre.

In Blackpool during the same period footfall was at 30 per cent and spending at 20 per cent of previous levels, with 12 per cent of workers back in the centre.

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Allan Cadman

Burnley saw footfall at 46 per cent and spend at 59 per cent, with 6 per cent of workers back, while Blackburn saw 36 per cent footfall and 59 per cent spend with 16 per cent of workers back.

However, Blackpool and Preston fared better overall than Manchester (footfall 15 per cent, spending 16 per cent, workers 4 per cent), which continues to be the worst affected location in the North West, and Liverpool (footfall 18 per cent, spending 24 per cent, workers 6 per cent). The figures from the Centre for Cities analyse the UK’s largest regional centres.

Allan Cadman, North West chairman of R3 and a partner at Poppleton and Appleby, said: “The latest lockdown feels like the toughest of all, with a combination of bad weather, the need to home school children and fear of new variations of the virus giving people all more reason to stay at home.

“While there is light at the end of the tunnel, reopening the economy will take time and the next few months could be a real struggle for some businesses. Ultimately we expect that footfall in towns and cities will recover, and some businesses – such as restaurants, leisure, sports, wedding venues and tourism – could benefit from a surge in pent-up demand.

“However those that do survive are likely to be carrying a debt burden due to loans taken out and tax payments deferred to see them through. Going forward, it will be even more important for all businesses to monitor expenses and manage cashflow carefully. Anyone who is worried about their business finances should seek professional advice as early as possible.”