With various conversations very much still around the future for and reinvention of city centres, it is interesting to see recent research carried out by CGA and Wireless Social which seems to indicate that solid sales over the first 6 months of 2022 within restaurants, pubs and bars have helped Britain’s regional city centres start to recover their vibrancy.
The research in question indicates that trading in Britain’s 10 most populous cities has improved on the benchmarks of 2019, with the four weeks pior to 2nd July 2022 being 2% above sales as recorded in the same period in 2019. It shows that over the first half of the year, Glasgow has secured the highest average ranking, scoring best for vibrancy in three of the six four-week periods. Bristol and Birmingham rank second and third on average. Between late February and early June, Manchester performed better than any other British city.
At the other end of the rankings, London has consistently finished bottom over the first half of the year, with sales down by 8% on 2019 in the latest four weeks to 2 July. A slower than hoped return of office workers and tourists—made worse by rail strikes in June—has held down sales in central parts of the capital, though there are signs that sales are now approaching pre-COVID levels.
In the most recent four-week block to 2 July, Leicester is placed top for the first time, while Edinburgh is second, having moved steadily up the rankings this year. Bristol and Leeds are third and fourth in the latest list.
CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “Britain’s cities were badly hit by two years of COVID restrictions, but this research shows how hospitality can help revitalise them. While so much retail activity moves online, restaurants, pubs and bars are giving people reasons to visit cities, and keeping their central areas vibrant. However, operators face huge inflationary pressures, which is making real-terms sales growth difficult, and the cost-of-living crisis is constricting consumers’ spending. Hospitality can continue to fuel Britain’s economic revival, but it deserves proper support from government to help sustain fragile businesses over this challenging period.”
Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “The first six months of the year have been a hugely welcome return to form for hospitality businesses, with footfall and sales data approaching and, in some cases, exceeding 2019 levels in certain parts of the country. What has been more alarming is the slow pick up in London, where flexible working patterns have hit city centre businesses that are hugely reliant on trade from office workers. This, coupled with 40-year inflation highs, a crippled supply chain, fluctuating consumer confidence and, most recently record-breaking temperatures, has created a melting pot of operational challenges. It’s vital that the sector receives as much support and backing as it can possibly get, only then will hubs like London truly return to form.”
Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy. Average rankings in the first six four-week periods of 2022.
It will be interesting to see how this continues to change as the year progresses and how hospitality continues to support the rejuvenation of city centres.