Published: Monday, 11 December 2023

Oxford city centre continued to experience increased footfall this autumn, bucking national trends and building on the growth seen in the summer.

Data from Oxford City Council reveals that there were nearly 500,000 more visitors to the city centre between September and November 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

The data shows that:

  • Over 8m people visited the city centre between September and November 2023 compared to just 7.5m in the same period of 2022 
  • September 2023 recorded the most significant increase with 2.8m visitors compared to only 2.5m in 2022, an increase of 11.6% 
  • Almost half (48.7%) of visitors are from Oxfordshire postcodes

Local businesses and the Covered Market also reported increased footfall this year.

Hoyles, an independent game shop on the High Street, reported a 20% increase in shop visitors compared to the previous year and 75% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Since April this year, footfall in The Covered Market has been above 2022 and pre-pandemic levels. Between September and November 2023, the Covered Market had 253,305 visitors compared to 229,843 in 2022 and only 227,230 in 2019.

The market has recently announced four new businesses, including the much-anticipated return of a bakery. The overall mix of uses now offers the widest-ever selection of specialist artisan produce, cafés, bars, gifts, experiences, fashion, and lifestyle products.

Christmas in the city centre

In the run up to Christmas, the city centre will play host to a variety of festive experiences for the whole family.

The Oxford City Christmas Market will run until 23 December on Broad Street featuring a mix of local arts and crafts, food stalls and gifts.

Additionally, there will be Christmas lights along the main streets, a Christmas Tree and seasonally themed events as part of the Covered Market’s later opening trial, family-friendly pantomime at the Oxford Playhouse and seasonal events in the Westgate shopping centre, Oxford Castle and the city’s museums.

To make the most of the festivities, Oxford City Council is encouraging residents and visitors to travel by bus, cycling, and walking into the city centre. To support Park & Ride users, the City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford Bus Company (OBC), and Stagecoach have extended a joint ticketing and parking offer. The deal, which has been extended until April 2024, offers parking for up to 16 hours and return bus travel for one person costs just £4, while for two people it is £5. With both options, up to three children under 16 can travel for free.

City Centre Action Plan

Oxford City Council initiatives have played a pivotal role in the city centre’s post-pandemic recovery. In 2022, the City Council officially adopted the City Centre Action Plan which outlines ways to strengthen the resilience of Oxford city centre and maintain the city's vibrancy and appeal.

These include the redevelopment of the Clarendon Centre, the Covered Market regeneration, the transformation of Oxford Train Station, Oxpens and the launch of The Store Hotel.

The city’s developments and ongoing collaboration with local stakeholders will continue to keep the Oxford city centre vibrant and inviting for generations to come.


"As we head into the festive season, I'm really pleased to see Oxford city centre thrive and footfall continue to buck national trends.  

“I know this is a challenging time for local businesses, so it’s wonderful that the increase is directly filtering through to local independent  businesses, such as Hoyles, and the Covered Market.” 

Councillor Susan Brown, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Partnerships

“Here at Hoyle's we're delighted to see footfall up 20% on last year and 75% up on pre-pandemic levels this November. We're excited to see what Christmas brings!” 

Emily Scaysbrook, Owner and Director of Hoyles

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