The end of 2019 proved a difficult time for retail. Despite the holiday season typically being a strong time for retailers and shopping centres, with dedicated discount days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day sales, there was a 2.5% drop in footfall in December across UK retail destinations. Further figures from Springboard, the leading provider of data and intelligence on customer activity in town centres, also showed high streets to have suffered the most with a 3.5% decrease in footfall.
Yet, this was not the case in Wimbledon Town Centre, where footfall was up by 0.8%.
This is a comforting figure, given the continuous challenges facing UK high streets, due to the rise in popularity of online shopping.
According to Springboard, there has been an evident shift in consumer behaviour, with more emphasis being placed on experience-based spending compared to goods-based transactions. This suggests an increased presence of Wimbledon as a destination for leisure in London – rather than just being the household name for the tennis.
Wimbledon continued to maintain a sense of variety across the high street in 2019, with independent retailers, such as Elys, demonstrating a clear understanding and willingness to adapt to changing consumer needs through enhancing consumer experiences, i.e. with their Winter Shopping Event. 2019 also saw the number of restaurants in Wimbledon grow, with the addition of artisan Lebanese grill Kababji, authentic Korean restaurant Yori and healthy eating, fast-food chain Leon, adding to the existing medley of cuisines being offered in the town. Wimbledon Town Centre is now home to a wide range of restaurants, cafés and market vendors serving up food from all over the world – Japan, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, and more. The inclusivity of the town can be felt surely through the diversity of food available here. In addition to this, the strong night-time economy in the town, through a great mix of pubs, bars and clubs has helped to keep consumers returning to Wimbledon for great social experiences.
In bucking the trend, the town centre also has the benefit of offering exceptional transport links (train, tram and tube) and is reported as the 21st busiest station in the country. Wimbledon is an attractive town for commercial offices, currently accommodating over 30 national and international Headquarter offices and cumulatively has over 15,000 employees working in the town. These employees in turn support the local retailers and hospitality, contributing significantly to the vibrancy of the town. As Wimbledon gradually upgrades the quality of it’s office accommodation, the need to maintain a strong offering to office employees is growing and it is clear that local businesses are responding.
With a significant increase in art and cultural events in Wimbledon in the past year, and a plethora of performances owing to the glittering reputation of our theatre venues, 2019 proved to be a year where community spirit could be felt by those who work in the town, visitors passing by and the residents who live here. The introduction of the UK’s first rainbow crossing created by Merton Council, a new street art feature with a powerful environmental message and popular events such as Winter Wonderland, demonstrated the town’s ability to innovate, inspire and influence.
During a challenging and vital time for retail and the high street, it is encouraging to see Wimbledon Town Centre positively beat a national trend and pave the way for change. We hope to see footfall continue to increase in 2020, and correspond to the allure of the town, bringing in more and more people to this great destination.