GLASGOW city centre footfall is a fifth down compared to pre-pandemic levels with lunch time trade continuing to be a cause for concern.

According to latest figures from the council's City Centre Recovery Plan 2022-24, footfall for July was 19 per cent lower compared with July 2019.

It equates to around 810,000 fewer visitors per month, with just under four million July, however weekend and evening footfall is now close to pre-Covid levels, at 98 per cent and 93 per cent.

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While more people are returning to offices, working from home has remained a popular option and appears to be having a knock on effect with weekday and particularly lunchtime footfall considered an issue at 72 per cent of pre-Covid levels. 

There's is some good news however, as sales figures are 20 per cent above the same month pre-Covid: primarily driven by the food and drink sector, but there is continued improvement in fashion retail. 

HeraldScotland: City centre visitors are beginning to returnCity centre visitors are beginning to return

Scotland's largest city was one of the hardest hit during lockdown and later restrictions in place for longer than other areas.

However, while it has been a long journey, the volume of customers from outside the city is improving at 57 per cent of pre-Covid levels, with hotel occupancy now 83 per cent of pre-Covid levels, although the supply of rooms has decreased due to staff/recruitment issues.

Councillor Angus Millar, Convener for City Centre Recovery at Glasgow City Council, said: “The profound impact of the pandemic on our city centres required an equally major response, and we and our partners are working to plan for and deliver the kind of mixed-use and sustainable city centre we need to support. 

"While certain sectors of the city centre economy have recovered well, we still have much work to do to deliver the changes we know we need to see - such as finding new ways to support the repurposing of property, reimagining the historic Golden Z, creating greener and more connected city streets through the Avenues and other infrastructure projects, and delivering more homes in the heart of the city.  Our ultimate aim is to create a city centre that is an attractive and sustainable place in which to live, work, study, visit and invest, and I look forward to working with partners to support that vision.”

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The City Centre Task Force (CCTF), whose members come from the council, the Scottish Government and the core sectors of the area’s economy, has secured £1.95million in funding from the Scottish Government to deliver work to support this recovery.

HeraldScotland: Glasgow's Buchanan Galleries could be demolished changing the look of the city centreGlasgow's Buchanan Galleries could be demolished changing the look of the city centre

Among the measures in place to help Glasgow's recovery include six area action plans  focusing on areas of high footfall and transport hubs:  Sauchiehall Street, Argyle Street, Anderston Cross, Buchanan Bus Station, the Heilanman’s Umbrella, and High Street.

Vacant units and strategic sites on Sauchiehall and Argyle Street is also being looked at is in delivery, with vinyls, hoarding and other improvements works underway.

A design competition to reinvigorate the shopfronts at the Heilanman’s Umbrella will shortly go live with the support of the Royal Institute of Architects.  This will explore the use of colour, design and lighting, and links to the broader plan for that location of bringing in new and different commercial uses, as well as reducing antisocial behaviour.

High Street activity will be taken forward once the main work in Sauchiehall and Argyle Street on vacant units has been completed, and subject to remaining funds being available.  In the meantime, the independent retail fund is being supported, as is a new meanwhile use project involving a further nine units.

The report added strategic planning is underway which will see the completion of a Retail Capacity Study and a Masterplan Vision for the ‘Golden Z’ (Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street, and Argyle Street) by the end of the financial year.  The Retail Capacity Study which will develop intelligence around consumer research, expenditure analysis, future demand for retail floorspace, and performance analysis.

The outcome of this will be an Intelligence Report which will feed into the next area of work: a new Masterplan Vision for the Golden Z. 

A key part of Glasgow’s new City Centre Strategy - to be launched in January 2024 - is a Property Repurposing plan.  Research established that Glasgow city centre has a substantial legacy of old buildings - many of which are listed and/or in a Conservation area - that are no longer fit for commercial uses.  The recommendation is that property conversion opportunities must be taken - but this is likely to require significant shifts in policy, as well as large-scale funding to protect these assets and transform them into productive, repurposed accommodation.  Discussions are currently underway with the Scottish and UK Governments with regard to their potential role in supporting specific recommendations.