Gifts Today magazine

UK consumer study underway

1,000 street sensors deployed in largest study of UK High Street footfall

A thousand smart street sensors are to be deployed across the UK as part of the largest study into High Street footfall patterns and impacts.

The Local Data Company are working in partnership with University College London and their Consumer Data Research Centre in the project to measure live footfall in 81 towns and cities.

The locations have been chosen in order to offer a wide geographical spread, differing demographic profiles and a range of town centre profiles based on health and occupancy.

LDC have spent 18 months developing and testing their SmartStreetSensor to increase their understanding of data such as the closure of 1,043 High Street stores over 2015 by multiple retailer and leisure occupiers while 593 independent retailers opened shops.

Director Matthew Hopkinson said: “What does this mean? Is footfall really in decline or is it simply that the customer journey has changed? How is ‘pitch’ evolving across these towns and cities? Do High Street coffee shop brands really increase footfall? How do vacant units impact footfall? Which High Street types are suffering the most, or the least? The SmartStreetSensor project will provide valuable insight to enable these questions to be answered.”

Funded by the Economic And Social Research Council this project is focussed on High Streets, with shopping centres and retail parks to follow in future studies. LDC, UCL and CDRC have partnered to provide the technology and a dashboard for the analysis and interpretation of the live feed of footfall data/.
The devices will use a unique calibration methodology to ensure the most accurate feed of data, ensures they only register people walking past a specific shop and thus reflect the opportunities shopowners have to influence their immediate High Street.

The data will then be sent anonymously, analysed and stored in LDC’s data warehouse before being presented through their highly visual live dashboards. Measures from all stores within a given centre will then be made available for reseach use, as well as through

SmartStreetSensor partners include Patisserie Valerie, Jack Wills, Tortilla, The Entertainer, Pizza Hut, Eurochange, Superdrug, Thorntons, Dixons Carphone, Itsu, Ed’s Easy Diner, Pret a Manger, Aldi, inmidtown BID and Oxfam.

Professor Paul Longley, Director of CDRC at UCL said: “We think this project is an excellent example of how the world’s of academia and business can work together in the big data era.

“The same data that can tell a retailer how footfall translates into sales at the till can also contribute to a far better understanding of how people move around Britain’s towns and cities. This wider understanding is crucial to better comprehending the health of retail centres, as well as the still broader implications of transport and other planning policies.”

Matthew added: “LDC are delighted to be part of this exciting and innovative project with UCL and the CDRC. It plays to all of LDC’s strengths from our army of field researchers, to our in-depth knowledge of retail places that we have been tracking since 2008, to our team of technologists who enable the data capture, analysis and delivery of millions of rows of data updated daily.

“In addition it builds on the strong relationships that LDC have developed with the country’s leading universities.

“Footfall is the lifeblood of any location as without people you have no need for shops and without shops you have no community so, understanding where, when and what type of footfall you have is critical to any stakeholder in retail and leisure places.

“The current generic footfall numbers do not provide the breadth or depth of coverage that retailers need to understand the performance of their shops.
“Pavement opportunity is what this data will show and that is what retailers and leisure operators can influence and therefore relate back to store sales.
“This data combined with rigorous academic analysis and LDC’s detailed knowledge of places and companies will enable landlords and occupiers to access previously unavailable business-critical insights.”

The SmartStreetSensor locations include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham, Blackpool, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Nowich, Luton, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Plymouth, Lymington, Devises, Brighton, Dover, and 31 locations inside the M25 – a full map is available at

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