There were 16 per cent more people in Oxford city centre in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period last year, the latest footfall figures have shown.
Between the start of January and end of March this year, approximately 8.878 million people visited the city centre, compared to 7.659 million in the same period in 2017.
The busiest day of the first three months of the year was 24 February 2018, which saw 142,817 people visit the city centre, while the busiest week was 11-17 February with 791,691 visitors.
Footfall for the year to date is 13.3% up on the previous year.
The rise in footfall is consistent with the pattern that began with the opening of the £440 million Westgate Oxford Shopping Centre in October 2017. The 125-store centre has greatly enhanced the shopping experience in the city, boosted the local economy and created 3,400 retail jobs.
The Westgate centre welcomed nine million visitors in the first six months of opening, exceeding expectations, and on course to eclipsing the expected annual figure of up to 15 million visitors.
Oxford City Council monitors footfall in the city centre on Cornmarket Street, Queen Street and George Street.
Following the relocation of some retailers to the new Westgate centre, a number of units in the city centre have become void. Currently there are 36 empty units in the city centre, five of which have confirmed new tenants, with three under offer, while eight are being redeveloped.
The number of voids in both the primary and secondary retail areas of the city centre is approximately 6% of the total, which compares with a current UK average of 12%.
The City Council is investing £1.6 million in the Covered Market building over the next four years and also looking at options to open up and improve the Market Street façade. Jesus College is also underlining its commitment to the Cornmarket retail area with plans for a significant redevelopment of their properties. This provides an opportunity to leverage improvements to the public realm on Market Street.
Another City Council regeneration project in the city centre – the £9.75 million redevelopment of 1-5 George Street into restaurant and Grade A office space – is set to have its planning application submitted before the end of June 2018.
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The rise in footfall shows the city centre continues to be a thriving retail and leisure destination. The new Westgate has made a real difference to people's experience of our city centre and their desire to visit it. We work with retailers and landlords to ensure that this continues to be a shared success for retailers across the city centre.”
Laurie-Jane Taylor, City Centre Manager, said: “We are working closely with landlords in the city centre as they work to fill empty units or redevelop their properties to improve their condition and adjust them to new uses. The Council is also carrying out regeneration and improvement work on its properties, which will contribute to the enhanced look, feel and vibrancy of the city centre.”