Updated research shows that Christmas shoppers who walk to high streets could be spending more than those who drive there.  

Living Streets Scotland, part of the UK charity for everyday walking has launched its updated research, ‘The Pedestrian Pound’ in Edinburgh (7 December). 

A review of academic evidence in the report shows that shoppers on foot can spend up to six times more than those who arrive by car, and that people value walkable destinations and investment in the public realm.

Data on streets where the pedestrian experience has been improved shows footfall increasing 20-35 per cent.  This bucks a 22 per cent decline in footfall across the UK between 2007-2017. When streets are regenerated to boost walking, there is a corresponding impact on turnover, property values and rental yields. For well-designed projects, sales can increase by 30 per cent or more when footfall is boosted.

Stuart Hay, Director, Living Streets Scotland said: 

“Walking has long been undervalued as a minor mode of transport but is in fact the lifeblood of the high street. There is a significant body of academic evidence and examples showing that environmental improvements can boost footfall and local economies."

For too long, the debate has focused solely on parking, instead of getting people out of their cars to support local businesses. For town centres to succeed we need high streets which are safe and attractive for walking, with 20mph zones and cleaner air. With less traffic, people will be encouraged to visit and enjoy their local high street more often.

Stuart Hay, Director, Living Streets Scotland

The Pedestrian Pound confirms that retail alone is not enough to save our high streets in the internet age. The big challenge for high streets is the pace of digital change. In 2017, 77 per cent of adults bought goods or services online compared to 53 per cent in 2008 (ONS 2017).

However, high streets and town centres that are walkable, accessible and offer a diverse range of retail, culinary and cultural activities have a bright future.  This pattern can be seen in a wide range of examples including New York, San Francisco, Bangkok, London to Edinburgh and Kelso in Scotland. The more ambitious the investment in placemaking, the bigger the boost in footfall. 

Dr Rachel Lee, Policy and Research Coordinator, Living Streets said:  

“High streets need to offer people more than what they can get online. It needs to be about the experience, a place where people like to get together, socialise and feel part of a community. Making places better for walking complements the shift in emphasis towards the quality of the consumer experience. When people enjoy a place, they stay longer and spend more.  

“Not only does this boost trade and help revive our high streets but by encouraging people to walk more we also bolster our national economy by improving public health and reducing congestion and pollution.” 

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity said: 

“This is an important report from Living Streets which underlines the value of walking and footfall to our towns and cities. 

“We know that walking benefits individual health and our shared environment, but the benefits do not stop there. While the nature of shopping has undoubtedly changed in the last decade, it’s clear that footfall on our streets remains an important driving force in our economy. 

“By doubling active travel budget to £80m pounds, we are working with our active travel delivery partners and local authorities to improve infrastructure and encourage walking as a sustainable form of travel.”