Doubts cast over accuracy of Wrexham town centre footfall figures
Doubts have been cast over the accuracy of how the number of visitors to Wrexham town centre is being calculated.
It follows concerns over people being included more than once in figures used to measure the volume of footfall by Wrexham Council.
There are currently two footfall counters located on the High Street and Hope Street, with plans to install eight more in the town in the near future.
However, councillors have questioned how useful the data is during a meeting on plans to help businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It came after officials reported there were more than 1.35m visitors to the town centre between September and December 2021.
Rebeccah Lowry, the local authority’s regeneration service manager, said numbers were higher than the same period in 2020 (933,000) and 2019 (1.27m).
It led to the statistics being challenged by Labour group leader Dana Davies.
She said: “How confident are we in the footfall figures that Becky’s just shared with us, is there any double counting within that?
“Also, why are we doing a comparison to the April to December period of 2020 when my understanding of that period is that we had a national lockdown, a local lockdown, a fire-break and another actual lockdown in that period.
“I just want some reassurance around the footfall figures because I’m confused on how robust they are to be honest.”
A report presented to members of the council’s employment, business and investment scrutiny committee shows footfall was already in decline in the town centre before the pandemic with more people choosing to shop online.
Figures dramatically reduced when lockdown restrictions were introduced in March 2020 and even when measures were lifted, visitor numbers averaged about 180,000 less per month than 2019.
Officials said there was a slight improvement last year but still below the overall level witnessed before the pandemic.
Cllr Davies was one of a number of politicians who queried the data with one suggesting the amount of money spent by visitors would be a better indicator of how businesses are performing.
Gwenfro ward councillor Nigel Williams (Ind) said: “We’re putting so much emphasis on footfall.
“You could have millions of people walking around Wrexham all day long, but do we know if it’s actually reflected in consumer spending in the shops to encourage and retain existing businesses?”
Rachel Cupit, who is part of the town centre management team, said it was possible for visitors to be counted more than once but she believed the data was still useful to compare against previous years.
She said: “It doesn’t recognise faces so it can count you twice going past.
“But that hasn’t changed and they’ve been like that for four years so we can compare like for like because it’s relevant data.”
Andrew Harradine, the council’s regeneration lead, said the new counters being introduced would be more technologically advanced than the old ones.
He said: “They are a new generation of footfall counter, and they are going to give us a much more refined picture of what is going on in the town centre.
“They will be able to give a better idea of things like dwell time, where people go, how long they stay, and some other bits.
“That’s the information that businesses need to be able to tailor their offer and to promote themselves effectively.”
Councillors asked for more information to be brought back to them on footfall at a later date.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter
(Top pic – town in 2019 pre pandemic)
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