Liverpool BID Company says the 2.4% rise was in contrast to a regional fall of 1.5% and a national fall of 2.5% as many high streets struggle for survival. Tony McDonough reports
Footfall in Liverpool city centre was up 2.4% to more than 57m in 2018, bucking both the regional and national downward trend.
The data has been released by the Liverpool BID Company which oversees Liverpool city centre’s retail district, including Lord Street, Church Street, Bold Street, Whitechapel, Parker Street, Williamson and the Metquarter, St Johns and Clayton Square shopping centres – but excludes Liverpool One.
BID chief executive Bill Addy says the rise represents three years of consecutive footfall growth. Northern region footfall was down 1.5% in 2018 and the UK as a whole fared even worse with a fall of 2.5%.
“These figures come despite growing competition from online shopping, and during a year when retailers and shoppers experienced transport disruption including the closure of Lime Street station and strike action affecting both our bus and train networks.
“The figures endorse the work we are doing to attract more people into the city centre, but also demonstrates the resilience of our levy paying businesses. We need to celebrate our high street and retailers more and recognise the incredible hard work they are doing in keeping Liverpool’s high street alive and kicking.”
St Johns Shopping Centre also defied the national decline on the high street in 2018 to show an increase in shoppers and revenue. The centre welcomed 13m shoppers over the year, up more than 400,000 on 2017 and a rise of 2% in footfall.
While UK retailers struggled to keep pace with online competition, St Johns outperformed the national figures with a 1% increase in sales.
In the years leading up to the 2008/09 financial crash the UK retail sector expanded its physical footprint rapidly but when spending slumped following the crash it found itself with too much capacity. City and town centres also faced more competition from out of town retail parks.
Add to this the huge growth of online retail and we have a scenario where many retailers have gone bust and a number of others, such as Debenhams, in a battle for their long-term survival.
Latest figures presented to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee show that in the last 10 years footfall in town centres has dropped by 17%, vacancy rates have risen to over 30% in some locations, and more than 400 multiple retailers have gone out of business.
Nationally, tens of thousands of store closures are predicted over the next 12 months with job losses estimated to hit 164,000.
In Liverpool, the world’s largest Lush store will open this year in the former Dorothy Perkins building, while ongoing investment has welcomed new brands to Metquarter, including the UK’s largest independent retailer for kids clothing, Kids Cavern, and the boutique cinema chain, Everyman.
In 2019 Metquarter will see independent designer clothing store, Cricket, open its flagship boutique and completion on HUGO BOSS’ expansion.
Liverpool BID Company is also working with partners at the city council, Liverpool Playhouse theatre and businesses in the area to devise a vision to re-imagine Williamson Square.
The leisure and hospitality sector is also playing its part. It was recently announced that Australian hotel chain Quest plan to open its first hotel in the UK on Church Street – representing a £10m investment. Clayton Square is also set to welcome Lane7 – a high-end, bowling alley and dining venue, in 2019.