Freedom Day boost for the night-time economy but most workers continue to remain at home

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Freedom Day: there was a boost to the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs (image: Getty/Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa)
Freedom Day: there was a boost to the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs (image: Getty/Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa)

Related tags Late night Night-time economy Finance

Freedom Day has provided a much-needed boost to the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in many cities, the latest data from Centre for Cities’ High Streets Recovery Tracker has revealed.

But despite heading out to socialise, people remain reluctant to return to their offices, the report found.  

It said that night-time footfall in the centres of the UK’s 63 largest cities and towns rose by 16 percentage points (pp) after the final lifting of restrictions. At the same time, daytime worker footfall actually fell by 1 ppt in the last week of July.

People across Northern England were keenest to head for an evening out after ‘Freedom Day’ with night-time footfall jumping the most in Blackpool and Sunderland.

Night-time footfall

Freedom Day in England also brought good news for hospitality venues in bigger city centres, which have struggled to attract visitors since the start of the pandemic. The easing of restrictions boosted night-time footfall in Liverpool (+30 pp), Manchester (+26 pp), Birmingham (+22 pp) and Newcastle (+21pp).

However, the lifting of restrictions brought less good news for cafes, shops and other businesses catering to office workers. The latest data from 31 of the largest cities showed that less than one in five people (18%) have returned to their city centre workplace. People in Brighton were most likely to have returned but, with worker footfall there at 49% of pre-Covid levels, it is still far from busy.

The report revealed that the average footfall remained at just half (53%) of pre-Covid levels with hust two places having recovered to their pre-pandemic levels of footfall: Blackpool and Bournemouth. However, their popularity with tourists means that visitor numbers are likely to fall once summer ends, it said.  

Uncertain future

Average footfall in the UK’s largest and most economically important cities continues to struggle. 

Centre for Cities’ Director of policy and research Paul Swinney said: “It’s a mixed picture as the country takes its next steps back to normality – both for different types of businesses, and for different places.

“People’s eagerness, particularly in cities in the North and Midlands, to go out and socialise has been a lifeline for many businesses in the night-time economy.

"But a reluctance to head back to the office in our largest and most economically important cities means that people in the so-called ‘sandwich economy’ that caters to city centre office workers are facing an uncertain future as we get ever closer to the end of the furlough scheme in September.”

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