So it’s good that we now get to examine the stats for ourselves, courtesy of the council, which now posts the raw data on its Leeds Data Mill website.
Except that once you look, nothing seems as clear as the PR people would have us believe.
Take Leeds city centre. Been doing well of late, hasn’t it?
The data shows that total footfall (recorded at the eight council cameras across the city centre) fell from 2010-12, but that the decline stopped in 2013 – the year the new Trinity shopping mall opened – when we got a 0.27% rise over the figure for 2012.
A rise it is (just), a boom it ain’t.
And the figure for 2013 is still 5.8m down on that for 2010, a sign (if we needed one) that the recession is still with us and many of us still feel the pinch.
Centre of shopping gravity shifted
What about Trinity in particular? Isn’t it the perceived wisdom that it’s been having a really positive effect on the number of people visiting the city centre?
That was certainly the hope.
No better gauge of its effect than the data for the year before the mall opened, and the year after.
And the result? It doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the city overall.
The overall numbers are flat.
What’s been happening is that there’s been a shift in the parts of the city centre people have been visiting.
The red circles are the cameras where footfall fell over the same period.
So, a massive boost of 3.3million at the bit of Briggate where Trinity’s entrance is …
… but an equally massive drop recorded by the two cameras on Commercial St and the one on the northern side of Albion St.
Dortmund Square has been holding its own and Macdonald’s on the top of Briggate did well in 2013 too.
The evidence chimes with anecdotal reports voiced by disgruntled retailers on BBC Radio Leeds a couple of weeks ago, who were complaining that the city’s centre of shopping
gravity had shifted and left them out on a limb.
Down in the first six months of 2014
If you look at the first six months of this year (click on the panel on the right), total footfall recorded by the cameras is a million down on the same period for 2013.
Even the Briggate camera by Trinity is down, probably not surprising given the 2013 figures included the initial fever with which people visited the new mall.
The trouble is none of this is a science
Here’s an example.
What happens if I’m on a day out on the train to Leeds and I …
… come out of the station, head along Boar Lane to the Corn Exchange
… pop in to Kirkgate Market
… head along King Edward St (maybe to Harvey Nicks for a cuppa),
… cross Briggate, wander along Albion Place
… up Albion St to the Headrow (past the city’s only bookshop),
…. along the Headrow to the Art Gallery
… and back to City Square via the Lapdance Quarter?
I wouldn’t be seen by a single camera.
Hmmm. Maybe time for a rethink on where they’re placed.
Are there other footfall cameras in the city centre that might help give a more accurate picture?
They’ve got some at Kirkgate Market (but the council doesn’t publish the data), Trinity has got its own, as does the St John’s shopping centre. They’ve probably got some at the Merrion Centre too. But the private ones don’t share the results.
(I’ve sorted the data into spreadsheet with month-by-month, camera-by-camera tables from mid-2009 to the latest figures up to the end of June 2014. If you want a copy to play with, give me a shout)