Numbers of shoppers on high streets outside London have fallen but shopping centres have managed to draw in more customers thanks to giant screens
As London retailers ask the government to remind the public their shops are still open for business, it is not just the capital that has been hit by the Olympics.
The numbers of shoppers on high streets outside London have fallen, although shopping centres have managed to draw in more customers thanks to giant screens showing the Olympics, poor weather and the suspension of Sunday trading laws, according to retailers.
Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, which measures shopper numbers, said the decline in footfall last weekend outside London was more than 9% and warned that the numbers will continue to be down.
She said: “The Olympics has played a significant part, especially on the high street. The good weather ended, coinciding with the Olympics starting, which drove people back home to watch.
“Now that we have won a few medals, the excitement will only build and shoppers are expected to stay away from the high street throughout the Olympics.”
Some Olympic events are being held outside London – such as football, and sailing in Weymouth – but the message from local authorities is at odds with London’s recommendations to avoid certain “hotspots”.
Garry Clark, from the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, said: “People are viewing London as somewhere they don’t want to be at the moment, but in Scotland the cities in particular are very busy.
“We’ve had football fixtures in Glasgow, so we’ve got a lot more visitors to the city.”
He said it remains to be seen whether or not the increase in footfall will lead to a rise in sales volume. “Yes, there are people in the cities, but will that translate to sales? We’re certainly hopeful that we’ll see an increase.”
But while high streets across Britain might be mirroring the quiet scenes of London’s West End, shopping centres have seen seen shoppers pouring in.
At Manchester’s Trafford Centre, general manager Tony Sheehan said since the Olympics there has been a increase in overseas visitors.
He said: “Footfall this week is currently 11% up on the same time last year and retailers are reporting strong sales. Our visitors have been keeping up to date with Team GB on our big screen, and this has attracted very excited crowds throughout. Our Olympic-themed sporting events have also been very busy, and our staff say it feels a little like Christmas week, but with better weather.”
In Stoke-on-Trent, the Potteries Shopping Centre saw footfall up 8.3% compared with last week, with Sunday particularly strong, up 6.6%, in part due to a suspension in Sunday trading laws during the Olympics and Paralympics.
Big TV screens also appear to be drawing in shoppers. At Chapelfield in Norwich, a giant screen has been put up outside, with hundreds of chairs for people to watch the action, a trend across the country.
But there are serious concerns that the high street could struggle, particularly during the lull between the end of the Olympics and the start of the Paralympics.
Richard Dichinson, chief executive of the New West End Company, which represents key Londonretailers, said it is preparing an emergency advertising fund to try to entice shoppers.
And on Wednesday, Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next said: “The two weeks of the Games for retail won’t be good. As with any sporting event, people tend to stay in and watch them on television rather than go out shopping.”