New data shows York’s footfall has bounced back – but many residents are shunning the city centre

Stonegate in York earlier this month. Photograph: YorkMix
24 Aug 2020 @ 7.43 am
| News

York had one of the biggest post-lockdown increases in city centre footfall in the UK, new figures show.

However, fewer people from the city suburbs are travelling into town, or spending their money there.

Latest research from the Centre for Cities shows that footfall in York city centre increased by 35% between the week commencing 29 June and the week commencing 3 August.

That is the third biggest jump in the UK, behind Bournemouth (59%) and Blackpool (51%).

York’s footfall is now at 75% of normal levels. However, because York normally attracts bumper summer crowds due to tourists from abroad, that puts it in the bottom ten of footfall recovery.

Blackpool is number one with 130% of normal footfall, and London is bottom at 28%.

Moderately strong

An empty Stonegate in April. Photograph: Richard McDougall

The data, from the Centre for Cities recovery tracker, classes York city centre’s economy as ‘moderately strong’.

It found that spend in the city centre fell to seven per cent of normal levels in the week commencing 19 April.

But in the week beginning 26 July spend reached 97% of normal.

Some local people are still staying away. Of the people York city centre attracted pre-lockdown, 64% were from outside the city, and 31% from the suburbs.

Now it has changed to 67% of outsiders, and 29% of residents. More spend is coming from outsiders too – up from 36% to 41%, whereas locals’ spend has dropped from 60% to 55%.

This may reflect fewer workers coming into the centre. By 11 August, only 20% of the normal number of workers were back.

Figures show the Eat Out To Help Out promotion has helped York.

Visitors to the city centre in the evening fell to 13% of normal at the height of lockdown.

By 8 August, five days after Eat Out To Help Out began, it had reached 67% of pre-lockdown levels.

Centre for Cities’ chief executive Andrew Carter, said: “Good weather and the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme have helped increase the number of visitors to city and town centres, but a question mark remains over whether the footfall increase that we have seen this summer can be sustained into the autumn without the good weather and Government incentive – particularly with so many people still working from home.

“Shops, restaurants and pubs face an uncertain future while office workers remain at home.

“So, in the absence of a big increase in people returning to the office, the Government must set out how it will support the people working in city centre retail and hospitality who could well find themselves out of a job by Christmas.”