On 12th April 2021 (week 15), the government’s roadmap out of lockdown kicked off, with the reopening of outdoor hospitality and much positivity from everyone, including the team here at Kingston First! Three months on and we are reflecting on how it has gone.
Our reopening campaign was a success, with two thirds of visitors answering our recent consumer survey having seen the campaign in town or online^. Our social campaign alone reached over 96,000 people, generating 14,500 engagements with the posts. Plus there was lots of positive feedback from both businesses and visitors, who felt it was refreshing, colourful, and made them feel positive about what was on offer in Kingston.
The huge effort made by businesses to be ‘Covid Safe’ is also working, with nearly 7 out of 10 visitors satisfied that the town feels ‘safe’. ^
Footfall in the first couple of weeks boomed, according to data from Springboard – hitting levels seen in 2019, but since then footfall has on average been 11% below 2019 levels. Worry due to the rise in the Delta variant could be putting visitors off, and the weather has not helped matters: The met office reported April was the sunniest on record, and May was one of the wettest! The weather in week 24 (w/c 14th June) was particularly bad, and this is borne out by footfall numbers.
For spend the picture is similar, with average spend from reopening to 12th June around 10% down on 2019, according to data from Mastercard. Much coverage in the press has talked of ‘pandemic saving’ fueling a boom in spending, but this is likely to be spread over months, if not years, and although some people have been able to save during lockdown, others are likely to have found that their incomes have decreased and essentials are taking up a larger portion of their earnings. Some spending has also shifted online, but the ONS are reporting declines in month on month online retail sales in April and May as spending shifts back to physical stores.
Kingston is performing well compared to Greater London and the UK. Over 40% of visitors that answered our survey visit for a walk or due to the river^, and town centres with outdoor spaces are likely to continue to do well, as there are still members of the community that don’t feel comfortable in indoor settings. We are excited to see how our Happy, Social Spaces and Sculpture Trail projects contribute in this regard.
The ‘return to the office’, likely to pick up pace in July and August, may well close the gap on 2019 footfall and spend figures, we await the data with baited breath!
^Results from our visitor survey of over 900 people, live from 22nd June to 12th July
* Clarence Street data only, to allow yearly comparison (footfall began to be collected from 3 other locations in August 2019, so we currently only have daily data for Clarence St for the first half of 2019)