Dublin city footfall 54% of ‘normal’ for Monday’s reopening

Dublin Town’s camera system estimates 140,000 people were on city shopping streets

 Shoppers  on Grafton Street in Dublin as stores reopened on Monday. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin as stores reopened on Monday. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

 

The latest data from a leading Dublin city centre traders’ group suggests footfall levels in the city on Monday as the non-essential retail sector reopened were a little over half of a similar day before the pandemic.

Dublin Town, which includes retailers and other businesses, measures footfall using a sophisticated camera system at various strategic points around the city centre. It recorded footfall of 208,000 on Monday, or 54 per cent of the same day in 2019 – the last pre-pandemic “normal” date for comparison purposes.

Footfall

Dublin Town’s chief executive, Richard Guiney, estimates that a footfall of 208,000 is equivalent to about 140,000 different individuals, as the group estimates that people are picked up by its cameras an average of 1.5 times each.

“We have picked this up over time by measuring footfall to the number of people carried by public transport, and then adding the numbers who come in by car, on bike, or who walk,” he said.

Although well down on pre-pandemic levels, Monday’s footfall levels were still above those recorded on June 8th last year, when non-essential retail reopened after the first lockdown, Dublin Town said. Footfall on that occasion was 190,000, suggesting it was up 10 per cent this week.

Shopping centres were said to have been far busier than city streets for the reopening on Monday.

It was estimated that the shopping streets of the northside of Dublin’s commercial core, around Henry Street, were busier than those near southside’s traditional commercial bastion of Grafton Street.

The latter area has witnessed a swathe of shop closures and retailer exits in recent times.

The city centre numbers may encourage arguments by business groups, such as Dublin Town and also Ibec’s Retail Ireland, that the Government needs to develop a strategy for eventually bringing workers back safely to offices in the city.

Office workers and tourists traditionally account for a large chunk of city centre retail, along with daytime customers of hospitality outlets, which remain closed.

Anxiety

“We are a million miles away from getting back to normal,” said one retailer who trades in the Grafton Street area. “I know fashion retailers are reporting higher than normal conversion rates. But it will be short lived and we’ll still be left with a very subdued city centre after the dust settles in the next week or so.”

The retailer suggested the lack of office workers, tourists and students in Dublin city was being compounded by “lots of people just giving town a wide berth due to general Covid anxiety”.

The business owner pointed to recent decisions by certain businesses in the Grafton Street area, such as Tommy Hilfiger and the Burger King outlet at the north end of the street, to withdraw from the locale, and suggested institutional landlords were keeping units vacant rather than dropping rents.

“The casualties will continue to rack up over the next six to 12 months,” the retailer said.