High Streets Task Force PRDG September 2020 Insight Report

Data from the Task Force Professional Research and Data Group, generated in order to inform practice and policy for high streets across England. This September 2020 insight report includes significant detail on high street footfall, business impacts, social media activity and business resilience. It is available as a PDF.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 13 October 2021

The Professional Research and Data Group, is a key part of the High Streets Task Force. Since COVID-19 the High Streets Task Force has pivoted to focus on supporting place leaders through COVID-19 crisis. This has meant refocusing the PRDG to a new aim; to work collaboratively, using our data, networks, skills and expertise to:

  • Understand the scale of the crisis and its impact on town centres/high streets
  • Support government with evidence/data for policy/response
  • Provide/sense-check the evidence-base for HSTF action and messaging

This September 2020 presentation summarises the latest data, research and insight the members of the PRDG have generated in order to inform practice and policy for high streets across England.

The PRDG membership is:

  • Royal Town Planning Institute (Chair)
  • Institute of Place Management (Research Lead & team)
  • Cardiff University
  • Centre for Towns (CfT)
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Maybe*
  • Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
  • Springboard
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS)
  • Ordnance Survey
  • PwC (secretariat)

This month’s PRDG research summary is available in one version: PDF report (attached above). This month's data pack includes:

  • Footfall data for the UK demonstrating that it has been falling since the end of February and that footfall on the 16th September 2020 is down 37.7% compared to the same figure last year, but up 1.1% compared to the same figure last week. On Monday 24th August, there was a slight increase in overall footfall as it was only down -15.9% compared to the same figure last year.
  • ONS data showing the business impact of COVID-19 in the UK. The data illustrates that the majority of businesses do indeed continue to trade, apart from in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector where only 78.7% of businesses surveyed continue to trade. There is still an overall fall in turnover for 46.8% of businesses surveyed, and 16.3% reported having workforce on furlough. It also shows that operating costs have increased across sectors due to implementing safety measures, especially in customer facing industries. This data also shows how the virus has disproportionately affected specific sectors within the economy, particularly arts, entertainment and recreation, and accommodation and food service activities. It also shows that retail sales volumes saw an increase of 3.6% from June to July 2020 and was 3.0% higher than February 2020.
  • Maybe* data demonstrating that since lockdown, the % of organisations active on social media has fallen dramatically, a consistent trend across the UK. The uptake of social media by SMEs remains disproportionally low and has been worsened by COVID. This will not assist their recovery. Data also show that people generally felt positive about the government assisted ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ Campaign and that the negative spikes in sentiment around the campaign was linked to worries about social distancing.
  • Business resilience survey results from the Institute of Place Management from a sample of 310 business across England. The purpose of this survey is to understand more about the impact on business of COVID-19 after lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Results show that regardless of the help that businesses received during lockdown, the vast majority (77.9%) feel that they will need more assistance to survive in the following months. Business Resilience Composite Scores was calculated for 159 businesses. From the data, businesses in the Leisure & Entertainment (0.62), Personal & Other Services (0.61), and Hospitality & Tourism (0.60) are more vulnerable to survive this unprecedented COVID-19 era.
  • ONS and OS data looking at the physical geography of high streets across Great Britain putting them "on the digital map“. Data shows that high street retail employment has fallen in more than three quarters of local authorities from 2015 to 2018 and that local authorities where retail employment has fallen between 2015 and 2018, by more than 20% in high streets employing at least 1,000 people in the sector.