The latest in a new series of ‘Top Cities: Vibrancy Ranking’ reports combined data from more than one million sales and device log-ins from more than 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants to assess the performance of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 12 February 2022.
It showed Bristol was the most vibrant of the 10 cities, with eating-out and drinking-out sales in modest growth from pre-Covid levels, and check-in numbers improving. Sales were also up in Manchester, lifting the city from ninth place in the last report to second in this one. Glasgow is the third-placed city, while Sheffield has moved up four places to fourth.
London comes in a bottom place for the second time in a row, with sales and check-ins still 11% and 38% down on pre-Covid levels respectively. While both figures are improvements on the prior four weeks, it suggests workers have been slow to return to the capital, and the shortfall of tourists has reduced sales further.
However, across the 10 cities monitored, sales were just 3% down on the same period in 2019, a sharp improvement on the 10% shortfall in the previous four weeks. Nonetheless, with inflation running high, sales are substantially lower than 2019 levels in real terms. Since check-in numbers are flat compared to the prior period, the improvement may be due to greater spending per head rather than increases in visits.
CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “After two very difficult years for Britain’s city centres, our report is proof of their growing vibrancy as Covid restrictions ease. Positive trends in Bristol, Manchester and elsewhere raise hopes that sales and footfall may soon return to pre-pandemic norms.”
However, he continued, while many customers are making up for lost time in pubs, bars and restaurants, others remain cautious about spending as inflation mounts, so trading in London remains particularly challenging.
Jeffrey believed recovery would be “fragile”, and achieving real-terms growth would be “tough” amid high inflation, but it is already clear that hospitality will be pivotal to the economic revival of Britain’s cities in 2022.
Economic challenges on the horizon
Wireless Social founder and chief executive Julian Ross said it was “really encouraging” to see activity was on the rise for hospitality across UK cities after an unprecedented two years.
However, he believed the industry still faced mounting economic challenges, with the impending rises in VAT, energy bills and inflation on the horizon.
He concluded: “This is why we fully support UKHospitality’s ongoing campaign to ensure the VAT rate is kept at 12.5% and the planned increase to 20% is scrapped. Measures like these are needed to ensure sales and footfall continue to climb, which is vitally important to our industry’s recovery.”
Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy (numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four weeks to 15 January 2022):
1 Bristol (3)
2 Manchester (9)
3 Glasgow (2)
4 Sheffield (8)
5 Liverpool (6)
6 Leicester (5)
7 Birmingham (4)
8 Edinburgh (7)
9 Leeds (1)
10 London (10)