Footfall Signatures and Volumes: Towards a Classification of UK Centres

This resource - based on the Bringing Big Data to Small Users Project (BDSU) - presents the four ‘footfall signatures’ identified in an analysis of footfall data drawn from 155 town and city centres across the UK. The authors argue that traditional ways of classifying town centres are outdated and over-focused on retail occupancy; whereas, the footfall signatures enable centres to be classified in a more dynamic way based on activity volumes and patterns.

Date added 25 June 2020
Last updated 1 July 2020

This resource is based on the Innovate UK-funded Bringing Big Data to Small Users Project (BDSU) conducted by the Institute of Place Management (IPM), alongside Cardiff University, Springboard, MyKnowledgeMap, and partners from seven UK towns. It outlines the four ‘footfall signatures’ identified in an analysis of footfall data drawn from 155 town and city centres across the UK. Footfall is a key indicator of high street and town centre vitality, viability and attractiveness. However, the authors argue that traditional ways of classifying town centres are outdated and over-focused on retail occupancy; whereas, the footfall signatures enable centres to be classified in a more dynamic way based on activity volumes and patterns. The resource explains how the footfall signatures identified can enable local authorities and other place management authorities to understand the changing nature of centres, and adapt to these changes accordingly, underpinning their place-based interventions with footfall evidence.

You can also access the article here [link to external site

The four identified footfall signatures:

Comparison

These are the more traditional shopping centres, typically located in larger town and city centres, and people come here primarily to shop. They are characterised by a footfall peak in the run up to Christmas due to having strong retail anchors which people may travel some distance to visit. These centres are accessible via a range of transport and serve a large catchment.

Manchester city centre is an example of a centre with a comparison footfall signature.

Holiday

These centres are visited mainly by people for a holiday or ‘day out’. They do not ordinarily concentrate on serving the local catchment, instead focusing on providing entertainment and leisure activities for visitors, rather than retail being a main anchor. They are busiest in the summer months of July and August and when the weather is good.

Blackpool is an example of a centre with a holiday footfall signature.

Speciality

These centres attract tourists but also serve the local population. People visit these centres for the overall experience, and they usually have a unique or special feature as their anchor. They are usually busiest from Easter and during summer, with another footfall peak around Christmas time.

Windsor is an example of a centre with a speciality footfall signature.

Multifunctional

These are a diverse group of centres, coming in many shapes and sizes, and serve a variety of everyday needs, such as convenience shopping, services, leisure, and employment. They are characterised by a flat footfall profile throughout the months of the year. People might travel to visit larger multifunctional towns but smaller ones serve the local catchment. 

Altrincham is an example of a centre with a multifunctional footfall signature.

For more on footfall  

To read more about the BDSU project and footfall signatures, the research team have also published the findings in a technical report.

You can also read more about the BDSU Project on the IPM website.

For more information about the benefits of monitoring footfall, please see this IPM technical and guidance note.