While UK retail has long focused on the city centre, where work, hospitality and retail combined, the balance of power is shifting to the areas where people actually live as home working continues.

It boils down to two key problems, according to new data from the British Retail Consortium, reported by the Guardian: deserted workplaces, and shoppers unsure about the safety of going into town.

While most cities in the UK have been affected, public-transport reliant London has been the hardest hit with footfall down 45.3% compared to the year before.

“Footfall remained well below normal levels in August”, explained Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC.

“In-store discounting and demand for school wear helped lure some customers back to the shops, but with many office blocks still empty and much of the public avoiding public transport, footfall is not returning to towns and city centres and this is having a devastating effect on the local economies in these areas.”

Still, the picture remains unclear. Credit card data released last month indicated that in London, while spending plummeted in the city centre, in some suburban neighbourhoods spending had returned to normal pre-pandemic levels or increased.

Across the country, however, the high street was suffering with footfall down 42% year on year, shopping centres down 37% and retail parks down 11% – this last figure perhaps reflecting a new preference for personal space.

Yet some retailers’ pain is others’ gain. The Co-op recently announced that it would create more than 1,000 jobs and open 50 new grocery stores, in a sign of how shopping habits are changing. These aren’t just a shift to online spending – though that is an important part of the company’s investment – but a shift back toward a weekly shop rather than a series of daily top-ups.

Sourced from The Guardian, Eater