Footfall up in Oxford Covered Market – new report

Published: Friday, 21st September 2018

Footfall across Oxford Covered Market has increased by an average of 5% since 2012 and more people are exploring the heart of the 18th century building, a new report has revealed.

The independent report, from The Retail Group, monitored footfall at 15 locations across the Covered Market between 10am and 5pm on a Friday and Saturday in April this year.

The report compares footfall across the Covered Market to a previous study, which used the same counting methodology, in March 2012.

Some of the key changes in footfall between the two studies were:

  • The largest footfall increase was in the central part of Avenue Three –between Brother’s, Georgina's and Taylors cafés – where footfall increased by 25% (from 19,624 people in 2012 to 24,521 in 2018)
  • The second largest increase was in the central square next to the post box, where footfall increased by 24% (from 23,535 a week in 2012 to 29,196 in 2018)
  • The largest fall was in the Covered Market entrance by the Golden Cross Arcade, where footfall fell by 29% (from 21,982 people in 2012 to 15,518 in 2018). Oxford City Council does not own the Golden Cross Arcade.
  • The second largest fall was in the north-west entrance to the Covered Market in Market Street, where footfall fell by 16% (from 28,476 people in 2012 to 23,798 in 2018)

Footfall increased at 10 of the 14 monitoring locations. Three of the four locations where footfall fell were entrances to the market.

As an average across all 14 locations that were monitored in both 2012 and 2018, footfall increased by 5%.

The busiest area of the Covered Market in 2018 was the central square by the post box, with an estimated footfall of about 29,196 people over the week in April. In 2012, the busiest area was the north-west entrance to the Covered Market in Market Street, with an estimated footfall of 28,476 people during the week.

The Retail Group, in concluding the report, said: “Perhaps what’s most encouraging of all is that [footfall monitoring] points seven, eight, nine and 10 (all located in the heart of the market) have shown some of the highest increases, indicating that the consumers are now successfully shopping much more of the whole market than previously.”

Since 2012, traders such as Aria Photography, Burrows and Hare, Colombia Coffee Roasters, iScream, Jeong's Dosirak, Oxford Skate Co, Sasi Thai and Taylors have opened.

The Covered Market tends to have the highest footfall during the summer months and in the lead-up to Christmas.

Footfall is also up across Oxford city centre. In the first half of 2018 (January to June), 8% more people visited the city centre compared to the same period last year (17.3m visitors in the first half of 2018, compared to 16.0m in the first half of 2017).

Oxford City Council has allocated £3.1m of funding to secure the long-term future of the Covered Market, including £1.8m to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years and £1.3m for internal refurbishment, decorations and new flooring.

The public realm around the Market Street entrance to the Covered Market could also see significant improvements in the coming years, in particular with Jesus College’s redevelopment plans.

Oxford Covered Market, which is owned and managed by Oxford City Council, features more than 50 traders selling food, gifts, shoes, fashion, flowers and jewellery, and provides a unique showcase for the very best in local crafts, food and drink.

Graham MacDonald, director of Covered Market Traders’ Association and owner of iScream & Wicked Chocolate, said: “I think these figures reflect an encouraging trend, one which many city centres would be jealous of.

“It is extremely sad to see any business close and the Covered Market has had more than its fair share in recent months but what the figures show is that vibrant new businesses which have opened since the previous survey are clearly drawing people in to the Covered Market, making their shopping experience a unique and enjoyable one.

“We know there are further businesses about to open and I am aware the Council is talking to prospective tenants to take on some of the empty units, which will further enhance the diversity and broaden the shopping environment for people of all ages.

“My message to shoppers who see an empty shop is: please support the independent traders, because without them every city centre will look the same.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Executive Board Member for Culture and City Centre, said: “I think undoubtedly the main reason that footfall has increased in the Covered Market, and in particular has increased in the heart of the market, is because the market’s fantastic mix of retail and food traders are drawing more people in.

“But we are acutely aware that retailers are struggling across the UK at the moment, and there is always more we can do to increase the number of people visiting the Covered Market. We are looking to bring some more interest and colour to the entrance from Golden Cross Arcade soon, and Market Street will see significant improvements in the coming years.”

Read the Oxford Covered Market Footfall Study 2018.