Why does Covid-19’s impact on Footfall differ for European cities?

Covid-19 continues to have the world in its grip and that still has its effect on the shopping streets. Although strict Covid-19 restrictions are once again in place in many European countries, there were reasonable opportunities in the summer and early autumn. During that period (September and October) Locatus conducted 121 counts in 96 different shopping areas across Europe. Almost all of these shopping areas were also counted in 2018 and 2019, thus the results can be compared with the situation before Covid-19.

Almost without exception, the footfall numbers in our 2021 counts are at half to two-thirds of what we counted for Covid-19.

This applies to the Netherlands and Belgium, but also for the major European cities where we have counted. In this blog we first look to the European cities, after which I zoom in on the Benelux region.

European cities with the least impact: which ones are doing relatively well?

In general, the German and Scandinavian cities are doing much better than the other cities. If we look at the footfall at the busiest point in the city and compare this number with footfall that we counted last time – at the same place – the 5 cities with the smallest decrease are all cities in Germany and Scandinavia.

There are three possible reasons for this:

  • These are countries where Covid-19 has had a relatively limited impact recently. In Denmark and Sweden there were hardly any restrictions at the time of counting.
  • These cities have a relatively limited dependence on international tourists and a strong focus on their regional market.
  • In Germany, it is possible that the fact that Germans have relatively poor access to the Internet also plays a role and that they therefore do not shop online as easily as consumers in other European countries.

Table 1: Cities with smallest percentage decrease in footfall

Town Street Ratio 2021 compared to 2019
Cologne Schildergasse 99%
Stockholm Drottninggatan 87%
Copenhagen Østergade 85%
Düsseldorf Schadowstraße 83%
Hamburg Spitalerstraße 78%

Which cities suffer most from Covid-19 restrictions?

The cities with the greatest impact are those that are highly dependent on foreign tourists, especially those from outside Europe. Geneva, for example, has many international institutions and it is likely that many of the foreign employees and visitors to those institutions are currently absent.

Amsterdam has the largest decline in footfall, caused by the loss of international tourists. Amsterdam scores worse than other tourist cities like Barcelona and Vienna. A probable cause for this is that regional visitors are more likely to visit  cities such as Alkmaar, Haarlem and Utrecht taking covid-19 into account, as they are easier to reach.

Table 2: Cities with largest percentage decrease in footfall

Town Street Ratio 2021 compared to 2019
Amsterdam Nieuwendijk 37%
Rome Via del Corso 37%
Lisbon Rua Augusta 39%
Paris Avenue des Champs-Élysées 39%
Geneva Rue du Marché 40%

The Locatus counts also form the basis of the report Pan-EuropeanFootfallAnalysis |Keyglobalandlifestylecities2021 – 2022 by BNP Paribas.


Why do some centres perform better than others?

All Dutch and Belgian cities have a lower footfall than before Covid-19, but we also see some striking differences.

  • Cities that attract many foreign tourists such as Amsterdam have the strongest decline;
  • Cities in regions where many Dutch tourists go to such as Deventer and Harderwijk do relatively well;
  • Places with one or more supermarkets in the centre, such as Vlissingen, score better than places without a supermarket in the centre.

Situation improved compared to 2020

A number of the centres that we counted in the Netherlands this autumn were also counted in the autumn of 2020. Compared to last year, we see a slight improvement in most cities. There are also centres (eg Roermond and Almelo) which have one third more footfall than in 2020. However, for these cities the numbers are still lower than in 2019.

In short, the impact of Covid-19 remains significant and, with the increase in infections and the emergence of the Omikron variant, this is not likely to end soon. Consumers will therefore not be flocking to the shopping streets in the same numbers as before the Covid-19 crisis.

Higher spending per shop visit

The good news is that research by ABN AMRO shows that when a consumer goes to the shopping street, he or she spends more. Therefore, turnover in the retail sector will not decrease in the same proportion as footfall has decreased.

Do you want to know when and where they counted?

Overview of all footfall reports

This example report shows which information a report contains. Would you like to order a report or know if a certain street has been counted? Call +31 (0) 85 760 3283 or mail to info@locatus.com.

Footfall reports

Are there enough passers-by to sustain your store? This information is particularly useful when assessing the location for a new store, or when monitoring the performance of your existing shop or shopping centre. A footfall report gives you quick and useful insights into the activity patterns of shoppers.

Gertjan Slob

Gertjan Slob is the Director of Research at Locatus. He is responsible for the entire data course. During his work, he is constantly analysing data, and frequently flags interesting trends and developments.