The data below comes to us via Lambeth, who have access to footfall counters and data management systems across the borough. Our high street has shown itself to be resilient, with lower vacancy levels, steady footfall and consistently higher spend in comparison to other areas within the borough.
All in all, a good place to do business!
Diverse business mix
West Norwood has a varied classification mix in terms of business types: 21% of businesses are comparison retail (‘non-essential’ shops that sell a range of non-food goods i.e., fashion and clothing stores), 18% are convenience (selling food and other essential items i.e., supermarkets and newsagents), 32% are services (where people or products are involved directly i.e., hairdressing, estate agents and dry cleaners), 25% are leisure (this included bars, pubs, clubs and cafes) and 4% miscellaneous (transport, non-retail, medical).
This shows a diverse mix of uses, comparable to the mix of uses for London as a whole. The dominance of comparison and service uses in West Norwood (53%) compared to other Lambeth centres with an average of 46% and the London average (50% of all uses when combined) helps to explain the low vacancy and resilience of this centre as a range of businesses continued to operate and provide services when permitted to do so, which will have continued to attract residents throughout the pandemic. This contrasts with more northern parts of the borough such as Waterloo and Vauxhall where the mix of uses is skewed more towards comparison and leisure uses, meaning these areas were more susceptible to lockdowns and slower to recover as restrictions were eased, as in lockdowns non-essential retail was mandated to close.
Low Vacancy Rates
Based on Local Data Company (LDC data), retail vacancy rates in West Norwood in the last quarter of 2021 were at 6.4%. This shows a 0.9% reduction in retail vacancy rates when comparing to March 2020, where the vacancy rates were 8.3%.
78% of businesses within West Norwood and Tulse Hill are independently owned and 22% are multiples (meaning there are a larger number of stores, or they are part of a national chain). In comparison to London as a whole, West Norwood has 11% more independent businesses than the London average. Independent businesses are typically more susceptible to financial shocks and will have particularly felt the economic challenges of the pandemic.
However, in West Norwood and other comparable centres within the borough, these independent shops are likely to have benefited from the emphasis on supporting and shopping local, and the increased residential catchment of workers staying local during the day rather than commuting to more central areas.
Leisure unit vacancy rates were at 4.5% in the last quarter of 2021, compared to 7.1% in 2020. This shows a c.3% reduction in leisure vacancy rates when comparing to 2020, indicating a positive trend as vacancy rates are reducing. Current data shows there is a total of 169 retail and leisure units in West Norwood & Tulse Hill, 125 of which are retail (74%) and 44 of which are leisure (26%). There are currently 10 vacant units (6% of total units), 8 of which are retail and 2 of which are leisure.
In comparison to West Norwood, Streatham, which has a similar number of units to west Norwood, has a higher percentage of both retail and leisure vacancy rates, with retail vacancy being 7.9% in July 2021 and leisure vacancy being 8.5% in July 2021.
When looking at London overall, LDC has recorded current retail vacancy rates at 13.7%, and leisure vacancy rates at 10.2%.
West Norwood’s vacancy rates are therefore much lower than the London average, which reflects the relative resilience of the centre during the pandemic and its comparative strength of recovery.
The data seems to support the 15-minute city model, which aims to ensure that city residents can perform six essential functions (living, work, commerce, health, education, and entertainment) within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their homes.
Retail openings and closures
Between January 2020 and October 2021, it was documented by LDC that 16 independent retailers opened for business in West Norwood. The categories included groceries and supermarkets, hairdressing health and beauty, chemists’ toiletries and health, bakers and restaurants.
In comparison, West Norwood saw 15 business closures in the period (14 independent and 1 multiple retailer/chain business). These closed businesses were in the following categories:
• cafes and fast food
• hairdressing health and beauty
The multiple retailer which closed was part of the ‘bars pubs and clubs’ category.
Whilst business closures related to the pandemic are unfortunate, it is good to see that the number of closures did not exceed the number of openings, highlighting the ongoing attraction of West Norwood as a place to set up a business. It should also be noted that natural business churn, through openings and closures, is to be expected as part of a functioning economy, regardless of the impacts of the pandemic.
From the data, we can see that footfall in West Norwood has remained largely consistent from November 2020 to October 2021. The data also shows that footfall is lower compared to areas such as Clapham and Streatham.
Although the footfall has been lower than other areas within the borough, it has remained at a steady level despite the varying stages of the pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions. This further demonstrates the resilience of the centre, supported by its strong residential catchment and the mix of uses skewed towards convenience and service uses.
The figures for West Norwood had remained static from August to the last week in November (located at Northwood Estates Agents, 493 Norwood Road). The reason why this was the case had not been identified. However, possible obstruction of the device or the device being turned off by the host business could be the reason for this. Week commencing 29th November 2021 saw an increase in footfall of c.80%, from 7313 to 13,212 footfall count, this increase has remained consistent which is a very positive sign of recovery.
It is however important to note that direct comparisons cannot be made when referring to footfall data, as there are many factors that contribute to the number of footfall counts such as population percentage, transport links and possible footfall counter disruption. West Norwood is considerably smaller than other areas in Lambeth which is a contributing factor to footfall count.
GLA data from the London Datastore shows that the number of weekday Mastercard transactions in West Norwood from January 2019 to November 2021 overall has been consistently higher in comparison to other areas within the borough. This further indicates the resilience of the centre supported by its residential catchment which can benefit from the increased proportion of residents remaining and spending in their home area rather than commuting into and spending in more central locations.
West Norwood spend levels are now significantly above pre-Covid levels.
Vacancy rates, independents v. multiples, openings and closures and classification mix and footfall from Local Data Company, October 2021.
Mastercard spend data from London Datastore (through High Streets Data Service and Partnership), October 2021.