The ‘footfall counter,’ which collects data using CCTV imaging, allowed the council to monitor the impact of events in the town centre, including the Market Place.
From November to December 2021, month-on-month, there had been a 1.1% increase of footfall on King Street compared to decreases in footfall in the North and Yorkshire (2.1%) and the UK (3%).
The week leading up to the South Shields Christmas Wonderland Market saw a week on week increase in footfall of 8.9% – more than double the UK increase of 4.4%.
More generally, the strongest days of footfall in South Shields were recorded as Friday/ Saturday and Monday, with the council set to collect and analyse data going forward.
Andrew Whittaker, the council’s corporate lead for town centres and foreshore, revealed the figures as part of a presentation to Riverside Community Area Forum (CAF).
Councillors heard that footfall information is available for a number of towns and town centres but doesn’t cover the whole country as not all local authorities have ‘bought into it.’
Mr Whittaker said the data would allow the council to monitor the impact of events and changing shopping trends, and could be expanded to the foreshore and other town centres in the borough in future.
“I’m pleased to say for all the effort that members, businesses and the council were putting in, it does seem to be making a difference from those figures,” he told the CAF meeting.
“There are other factors that we could take into account […] but I think for December alone it shows that we’re starting to get it right in the town centre and we’re starting to see that buzz just starting again.
“Hopefully that will continue, certainly in the next year.”
Councillor Angela Hamilton, ward councillor for Beacon and Bents, asked whether the footfall data alone reflected people spending money in South Shields town centre.
Cllr Hamilton told the meeting: “I would be interested to know what the satisfaction rates are as well as just the increase in footfall.
“What I get told is that people come down, find there’s not enough shops and then they go away and they’re not actually spending any money there.”
Mr Whittaker, responding, said the council did not currently collect satisfaction data, but that this could be looked at in future by gathering the views of businesses and shoppers.
Beacon and Bents ward councillor, David Francis, also asked whether councillors could receive regular updates on footfall data and emerging trends.
Mr Whittaker confirmed South Tyneside Council had only used the footfall counter for one year, since December 2020, with other local authorities having used the technology over periods between five to ten years.
He added: “Our comparison with other areas isn’t always great but certainly it’s important that you see that information and what impact it has.
“Just to reflect on the September food event [in 2021] there was a 10% increase in footfall over that week – I’m not saying it was all just for that event but it does show an impact.
“In terms of the council, members and businesses’ aspirations over the things we’re looking to do, it does have an impact and that’s the sort of discussion that we’re starting to have.”