London boosted by reopening of indoor hospitality

Google Mobility data was analysed by school students across London participating in NewsTalk conferences with The Student View and RADAR.

By A joint investigation with TSV Reporters, RADAR and The Student View · September 9, 2021

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Shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in London saw a boost in visitors following the reopening of indoor hospitality in May – but footfall remained below levels before the Covid pandemic, new figures reveal.

There is, however, hope that the final lifting of restrictions on July 19 – dubbed Freedom Day – will give the High Street the “summer boost it needs”.

The data comes from Google which uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people’s movement in different parts of their daily lives.

It compares footfall in areas where there is retail and recreation such as restaurants, cafes and shopping centres to a five week-baseline period recorded before the Covid-19 crisis.

The data was analysed by school students across London participating in NewsTalk conferences with media literacy charity The Student View, working with data journalism agency RADAR.

Across the UK, average activity in retail and recreation areas increased from 35% below the baseline over the weekends of May 8-9 and May 15-16, to 18% below across July 2-3 and July 12-13.

The weekend of the Spring Bank Holiday saw a peak in visitors with activity just 11% down on pre-pandemic levels.

The figures will have been impacted by the easing of Covid restrictions across England on May 17, which allowed restaurants and pubs to open indoor areas for food and drink.

Cinemas, hotels and children’s play areas were also given the go-ahead to reopen, along with indoor sporting and entertainment venues.

The British Retail Consortium said better weather in June and the success of Euro 2020 had also helped boost trade, with the body reporting a growth in High Street sales between April and June.

Meanwhile, Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said the reopening of hospitality and leisure sectors had led to a “dilution” in consumer spending, although he said businesses now faced greater competition from online retailers.

He added: “Retailers will be hoping that the feel-good factor from Euro 2020 and lifting of COVID-19 restrictions will give the high street the summer boost it needs.”

The data from Google showed that the busiest weekend for activity in retail and recreation areas in Harrow since May 8 was July 10-11 when levels were 17% below pre-pandemic levels.

The quietest was May 8-9.

More stories as part of this investigation can be found here.