Outer London high streets recovering faster from coronavirus

Outer London high streets are bouncing back faster from coronavirus than the city centre, new analysis has revealed.

Footfall in some suburbs is even higher than pre-pandemic levels, as shoppers choose local options to avoid the threat of the virus, Centre for London analysis suggests.

The think tank worked with researchers from Kings College London to compare trends in central London, as well as major shopping districts like Stratford and Orpington, and local high streets Southall and East Ham.

City centre businesses have seen the sharpest decline since January, Mastercard transaction data shows.

Restaurants sales fell 80 per cent in the first half of the year, with food and clothes shopping down 60 per cent.

The capital’s financial district, the City of London, has been hit particularly hard, with a slightly faster rebound in Soho and Oxford Street.

Summer would normally mean booming incomes, as British and international tourists head to London.

Major town centres have also taken a hit during the crisis, but appear to be recovering faster.

In Orpington, Bromley, clothes shopping has more than halved since the start of the year, while food shopping is down nearly 40 per cent and dining out has dropped by a third.

Restaurants in Stratford, Newham, are still seeing less than half their normal sales – but clothes shopping is down by just a quarter, with a 20 per cent drop in food shopping.

Meanwhile some of London’s smallest town centres have seen sales grow during the pandemic as more people shopped locally.

In East Ham, Newham, restaurant sales are still at 90 per cent of normal levels, while food shopping is up 15 per cent with clothes sales up 10 per cent.

Southall, Ealing, has seen an even more dramatic boost – restaurants are doing 20 per cent more trade, with food shopping up by a quarter, and a slight increase in clothes sales.

The Mastercard data records the number of card transactions, not their value – so the revenue changes for businesses could be different.

A falling number of transactions, particularly in shops, could suggest that customers are doing bigger trips rather than a series of small visits to limit their exposure to Covid-19.

Centre for London deputy director Richard Brown said Londoners are still staying home and shopping locally.

“Without commuters, foreign tourists and UK visitors, London’s global centre is struggling, as are many of the capital’s lowest paid workers,” he added.

Mr Brown said it was not yet clear if the changes will be temporary, but the findings suggest London workers and businesses will need support “for months to come”.

Professor Mark Kleinman, a public policy researcher at Kings College London who led the research, said the pandemic has served to “accelerate” changes like remote working and online shopping that were already happening.

“London’s economy continues to work well below its capacity,” he warned.

“As the Job Retention Scheme is wound down over the next few months, it is important that Government policy supports London’s recovery and future economic growth which is vital for the UK economy as a whole as well as for Londoners.”

Harrow Times | Local News