Archetypes of Footfall Context: Quantifying Temporal Variations in Retail Footfall in relation to Micro‐Location Characteristics

This 2021 academic article focuses on how centre footfall patterns are shaped by micro-locational characteristics, and therefore the immediate environs of a centre. The article groups these into three main categories: functional (e.g. retail mix), morphological (e.g. walkability), and other (e.g. the weather). Based on an extensive analysis of activity data drawn from 40 high street retail locations across Great Britain, three retail ‘clusters’ are identified, each with differing micro-locational factors and footfall patterns: Chain and comparison; Business and independent; and Value-orientated convenience retail.

Date added 21 September 2021
Last updated 21 September 2021

This 2021 academic article focuses on how micro-locational characteristics can shape footfall patterns within town centres and high streets. It begins by outlining the usefulness of footfall as an indicator of centre performance, noting the importance of making evidence and data-informed decisions when implementing strategies to revitalise high streets and town centres - describing footfall as the 'lifeblood’ of high street vitality and viability. As the authors explain, centre footfall can be impacted by both macro-environmental factors such as economic trends, as well as micro-locational factors (i.e. the immediate physical environment), such as retail mix and walkability - which is the focus of this article.

The authors identify several key determinants of centre footfall, categorising these as ‘functional’, ‘morphological’, and ‘other’. The first - functional – relates to the main functionality of the retail centre and hence its main purpose for users, including retail mix, tourism, and the working population. For instance, the article explains how a varied and cohesive retail mix that meets user needs has been found to enhance centre footfall. The second – morphological – relates to how walkable a centre is, and how attractive a street is for a pedestrian. For example, the authors note how well-connected streets tend to have higher footfall. And the third – other – concerns additional factors impacting centre footfall, such as the weather, with the article observing how rain and snow typically reduces centre footfall.

Based on an extensive analysis of activity data drawn from counts of smartphone sensors, the article attempts to quantify the impacts of the above factors identified in the literature on centre footfall. It focuses on activity data drawn from 640 sensors across 40 high street retail locations in Great Britain. Three different ‘clusters’ of retail micro-locations were identified in the data analysed: Chain and comparison (CCR; comparison shopping and chain stores dominance); Business and independent (BI; tendency towards independents, especially in office-dominated districts); and Value-orientated convenience retail (VOCR; smaller secondary centres with a high prevalence of convenience retail). The article outlines how each of these different clusters experiences different footfall patterns during a day; for instance, whereas footfall in CCR clusters are busier on a Saturday than weekdays, VOCR clusters enjoy a lower but more steady footfall pattern across times and days of the week. Visual graphs are included to further demonstrate these footfall fluctuations during the week.