Foot traffic at all-time high in Southbank as traders gear up for springtime boost
Southbank traders are hoping for a bumper springtime recovery, with foot traffic in the precinct hitting well above pre-pandemic levels.
The latest data from the City of Melbourne showed the average pedestrian activity was exceeding pre-pandemic numbers by as much as 50 per cent during night-time activity in July.
A noticeable spike was recorded on the night of the Manchester United pre-season friendly soccer match against Melbourne Victory on July 19 - with two and half times more activity.
Southbank also saw a boost with the Firelight festival in Docklands on July 2 seeing twice as many visitors flocking to the area when compared to the pre-COVID benchmark.
June similarly saw an increase with the average night-time pedestrian activity in Southbank exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 45 per cent.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the lift in numbers was a testament to the “incredible small business owners in Southbank, who are contributing to our city’s vibrancy and energy”.
“Southbank is driving the city’s post-COVID recovery – with visitors and locals flocking to the precinct in droves,” she said.
“Pedestrian activity in the area is exceeding pre-COVID levels on all nights of the week – a pattern we’ve seen for more than eight consecutive weeks.
“Weekday foot traffic is also regularly above the pre-pandemic benchmark, and impressively, weekend activity along the promenade is at least 50 per cent above pre-COVID levels.”
Local businesses told Southbank News that the rise in foot traffic was generally reflective of consistent trade in recent months though many were still waiting for the return of office workers before things returned to normal.
“We’re definitely missing the afterwork drinkers during the week,” Sophie Hall, one of the managers at Soho Restaurant and Bar on Southbank Promenade said but added weekends “are still very busy”.
The Ludlow Bar and Dining Room, also on the promenade, said without office workers “it’s definitely not the same as what it was before, but we’re doing good,” adding the council’s pedestrian data appeared to be accurate.
However, Philip Kennedy, owner of Pure South on the promenade, said while events had provided a welcome boost to trade, general pedestrian activity exceeding pre-pandemic numbers was “improbable at best”.
“Yes, there has been flushes of numbers around events, especially pre-theatre, a couple of AFL games and the like, however, there’s no one in the office towers,” he said.
“It’s become like a big country town; people arrive on a Friday night, and they hang around on the weekend and they disappear again on a Sunday afternoon.
“The City of Melbourne is doing a great job on our behalf; however, the office towers are empty, there’s no way on Earth foot traffic down here is what it was pre-COVID.”
Tim Bracher, executive officer of the Yarra Business Association, said the uptick in in foot traffic was “welcome news which reflects not only a probable lift in workers returning to their Southbank workplaces, but also in foot traffic generally in the precinct”.
“We knew that weekend traffic was well up, but it’s very pleasing to see mid-week figures now steadily rising as well,” he said.
Mr Bracher said he had done his own comparison between mid-July 2019 and mid-July 2022, with foot traffic figures being “significantly higher for both mid-afternoon and early evening counts”.
But he added July’s figures would not fully reflect the “dampening effect” of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s “steep rate hikes, which are only starting to be felt in the system now”. •