More than half of UK businesses expected the King’s Coronation and extra Bank Holiday to give a bigger boost to revenues than the Platinum Jubilee celebrations last year, with new movement data showing over 114,000 people made their way to central London to be part of the historic parade.
These insights mark the launch of the first Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index. This quarterly index combines anonymised and aggregated UK movement data from O2 Motion, with national polling findings to reveal key trends relating to the behaviour of 2,000 British consumers and 1,000 business leaders. Together, the data paints a clear picture of UK movement patterns and the trends behind them, with this first quarter painting a positive picture of Britain embracing spring with increased commuting and shopping trips. The first publication has revealed that commuting, retail and transport use across major British towns and cities have notably increased over the first quarter of 2023, despite the tough economic backdrop and cost-of-living crisis.
Coronation weekend hopes of a boost realised
Despite ongoing economic uncertainty, 51 per cent of business leaders were anticipating that the Coronation would spike revenues more than the Platinum Jubilee in 2022, with over half (53 per cent) making plans to increase staffing levels at least temporarily. Over 114,000 Brits made their way to central London and positioned themselves along the parade route in the hope of catching a glimpse of our new King. While many braved the rain for the historic occasion, parade crowds did not match those of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 Coronation procession which had an estimated 3 million people in attendance. London wasn’t the only city to draw celebrants as Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester saw over 2,800 people come to watch the Coronation on public screens, followed by Millennium Square in Leeds with over 2,100 spectators.
Meanwhile, one in eight Brits planned on a staycation in the UK this past weekend with London being crowned the most popular destination, followed by Manchester, Devon and Cornwall. Meanwhile, one in five (18 per cent) expected to attend local events or festivals to mark the Coronation, while just over one in ten (11 per cent) sought solitude away from the crowds with hiking or cycling trips.
The Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index has also revealed a sustained return to commuting in 2023. When surveyed, two-fifths of respondents (40 per cent) reported having commuted more now than three months ago, with three-day hybrid weeks becoming the norm. This trend was overwhelmingly led by younger workers with over half of 18–24 year-olds (58 per cent) saying that they’ve increased their commuting habits in the past month, compared with two-fifths (45 per cent) of 25-34 year-olds.
Wednesday has emerged as the most popular day to commute to work, as stated by almost eight in ten respondents (78 per cent). When asked, over a third (38 per cent) of British workers cited new flexible working arrangements introduced by their employer as a key driver in changing their commuting pattern, with three quarters (75 per cent) feeling distinctly positive about the new ‘normal’.
According to the index, the number of weekday journeys made by rail increased by over a third (34 per cent) across the UK in the first quarter of 2023, with O2 Motion data registering above average growth in the North, reaching 62 per cent growth in Carlisle and 45 per cent growth in Liverpool.
Survey data showed that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Brits say they have used public transport more over the past three months, citing cost and the environmental impact of travel as reasons for their choice.
In good news for retailers, weekend footfall increased across the high street and shopping centres by an average of 6 per cent over the first three months of the year. Older people are driving this trend, with an 11 per cent growth in weekend visits compared to only 5 per cent for 18-24 year-olds.
With the survey data showing almost half of Brits (49 per cent) are more budget-conscious when shopping, and under a fifth (19 per cent) are stocking up to capitalise on deals and offers, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of business leaders have implemented new marketing or sales strategies to address these changes in behaviour. Many are also turning to new retail technologies, such as in-store interactive displays (42 per cent), mobile apps (34 per cent) and virtual and augmented reality (28 per cent) to maintain sales. Keen to reap the benefits of AI, 7 per cent of the public claim to have used chatbots and virtual assistants for the first time in the past month – including nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds.
Jo Bertram, managing director of Virgin Media O2 Business, said: “Despite the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing strikes driving uncertainty, our new Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index has shown a greater level of positivity than perhaps we all would have expected. British people are clearly keen to get on the move this spring; Gen Z has been leading the return to the workplace as over half of 18-24 year-olds increased their commuting trips in the past month, and older age groups are following suit”.