New research has highlighted England’s ten busiest towns and cities for both footfall and in-store retail in the week since non-essential stores reopened on Monday 12th April.

Chelmsford tops the list for footfall with an increase of 71.9% over the past week, but Exeter has seen the greatest rise in people actually going into non-essential stores, with more than three times as many store visits (up 227.3%).

While the South of England dominated the increase in footfall on high streets, cities from around the country saw an increase in people visiting non-essential stores, with Ipswich (up 183.3%), Nottingham (up 170.6%) and Manchester (up 137%) all appearing in the top ten.

Many of the increases across both rankings centre on commuter towns around London and England’s other large cities, according to the real-time analysis available for download here.

The analysis also revealed the ten towns and cities that are lagging behind since the re-opening of the high streets: Peterborough has only seen footfall go up by 3.9% since non-essential retailers re-opened, while Southend-on-Sea saw store visits rise by only 5.3%.

Interestingly, Birkenhead features as the tenth highest riser for footfall and yet also appears as the fifth most lagging town for in-store visits, suggesting lower levels of discretionary economic activity in spite of larger crowds.

The research was carried out by Huq Industries, a mobility research business, using its Community Vision product, for use by local councils to support decision-making around the future of our cities, towns and high streets.

Huq’s extensive dataset of real-time population mobility data, comprised of 1bn+ mobile geo-location data-points daily, is used by retailers, investors and the public sector to measure footfall across a range of consumer, business and industrial settings.

Conrad Poulson, chief executive officer at Huq Industries, comments: “This data highlights that commuter towns and residential areas around London and the big conurbations of the North are seeing the greatest rises in footfall since non-essential retailers were allowed to re-open.

“Importantly, it also shows that footfall and economic activity are not always the same thing. Many of the towns and cities that are seeing people moving around in increasing numbers aren’t necessarily seeing an increase in retail activity. Retail behaviours are shifting with the growth in e-commerce and it’s becoming harder than ever to turn a town centre visitor into a shopper.”

Top ten towns for increasing footfall

  1. Chelmsford 71.9%
  2. Bracknell 70.4%
  3. Crawley 58.8%
  4. Maidstone 58.2%
  5. Basildon 49.2%
  6. Solihull 48.3%
  7. Bath 47.2%
  8. Carlisle 46.7%
  9. Southampton 46.4%
  10. Birkenhead 46.1%

Top ten for increased visits to non-essential retailers

  1. Exeter 227.3%
  2. Ipswich 183.3%
  3. Nottingham 170.6%
  4. Bournemouth 170.6%
  5. Cambridge 150.9%
  6. Manchester 137%
  7. Liverpool 133.3%
  8. Bristol 123.4%
  9. Leeds 122.7%
  10. Norwich 116.6%