The return of shoppers to Luton’s high streets has seen the town ranked among the UK’s best retail recoveries since stores re-opened on 12 April.
Based on research from Ipsos’s Retail Recovery Index, footfall in Luton was found to have the eighth biggest increase in the UK in the week following non-essential stores reopening, compared to the same week in 2019.
Ipsos claims its study shows that consumers are continuing to shop locally, rather than returning to major retail destinations like London, Manchester and Birmingham.
The top 10 bounce-back retail locations are:
6.Chelsea - Kings Road
A Luton Borough Council spokesman said: "This is good news and an excellent step in the right direction.
"It is also a testament to the hard work that the council and key stakeholders have put into implementing the Covid economic recovery plan, helping to protect businesses during the lockdowns and supporting the economy to reopen safely.
"Our initial priority has been to distribute £40m in business grants so far and deliver, with our partners, a wide programme of business support.
“Public safety, specifically in retail areas, has been paramount and we secured £180,000 of European Regional Development Funds to install hand sanitisers, town centre monitors to help manage crowded areas and creative social distancing signage to enliven the town centre and ensure government guidance remains fresh in people’s minds.
"Our Covid marshals have been instrumental in guiding and advising businesses on safe reopening and our public health team is on hand to help businesses mitigate against outbreaks."
Luton Borough Council is also developing plans for a £187,000 'Welcome Back' fund to support the town's retail sector. Longer term, the council has an "ambitious" town centre masterplan to respond to the changing nature of the high street and will be working with the High Streets Taskforce as one of 70 councils selected to participate in their programme of support.
Fergus McLardy, Luton BID project manager said: “Being recognised as having one of the UK’s best retail recoveries is a hugely encouraging start as restrictions lift. It is fantastic to see our high street beginning to bounce back, particularly our local retail sector.
"We have a strong and enduring business community in Luton, and we are very proud to work with and support them – signposting businesses to grants and other local and national support schemes, providing COVID Business Support Packs and lots more.
"We also have a very strong town centre partnership and, together with Bedfordshire Police, The Mall, Luton Council, The Galaxy Centre, The Culture Trust and other organisations, we have collectively put in place the tools needed to make the area as safe as possible.
“Footfall has risen sharply, as expected, and businesses are working with precautions in place so that shoppers and visitors can have a safe and enjoyable experience. That Luton is ranked so highly against some of the big cities shows that people are supporting their local economy – this is great news for our town. However, we are still urging visitors to follow the measures in place to keep themselves and others safe.”
Roy Greening, general manager at Luton's The Mall, added: “It’s been great to welcome back Luton shoppers to their favourite non-essential stores here at The Mall in a safe and controlled manner.
"Protecting the health and safety of guests and staff continues to remain our number one priority and it’s more important than ever that we all continue to follow the guidance around ‘hands, face and space’.
"Guests to The Mall can expect enhanced sanitation and cleaning regimes alongside social distancing measures both in stores and throughout the centre. We’ve also reintroduced our traffic light system to assist in safely managing our footfall capacity and using this data to inform the community of the best times to visit The Mall.”