A major new research study of 154 towns shows that district centres saw a smaller fall in visitors compared to cities, as high streets continue to evolve from retail focus to ‘multifunctional’ hubs.

The High Streets Task Force analysed footfall from 154 towns and found that 44% provide a wide range of different services to their communities and can be classified as ‘multifunctional’. This type of town has increased by 8% in the last year (Jul 19 – Jun 20) and compares to just 19% of town centres that focus predominantly on ‘comparison retail’ to attract visitors.

Professor Cathy Parker, Research Lead of the High Streets Task Force and Professor of Marketing and Retail Enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

“The historic decline in footfall we’ve seen doesn’t mean that all high streets are failing. It shows that their function is changing. Our research indicates that during and after lockdown, local high streets have been people’s lifeline, for essential retail and services, and as a gateway to local parks and greenspace. People are rediscovering their local areas and rethinking what they want from their high streets.”

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