Glasgow bounces back strongest with recovery slower in London

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

All rise: every city on the report has increased sales as footfall returns (credit: Getty/andresr)
All rise: every city on the report has increased sales as footfall returns (credit: Getty/andresr)

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Glasgow has been labelled the most vibrant of the top 10 UK cities as the hospitality trade continues to improve with London the slowest to recover, according to a new report from insights data and Wi-Fi specialists CGA and Wireless Social.

The latest Top Cities Vibrancy Report​, which combines sales and device log-in data to assess the performance of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 12 March 2022, has seen sales increase by 3% on the equivalent pre-pandemic period in 2019 as workers, shoppers and visitors provided a much-needed boost to footfall.

It marks a steady recovery from the previous four-week period, when sales were down by 3% on 2019 and every city surveyed achieved better sales growth than in the February’s Top Cities Vibrancy Report​.

Glasgow was the most vibrant of the ten cities, with sales in high single-digit growth from 2019 and check-in numbers increasing for the third period in a row. Birmingham rose five places up the list to second and Manchester was third after recording double-digit sales growth.

London last for third period in a row

London is in 10th​ place on the list for the third successive period. While trading and check-ins remain well below the levels of 2019, they did increase over the four weeks to 12 March, and further improvements can be expected as people return towards their usual habits in the capital.

However, with inflation now topping 6%, hospitality’s sales remain well below the levels of 2019 in real terms. Rising costs in energy, food and other key inputs are meanwhile squeezing operators’ margins, and the cost-of-living crisis may stifle consumers’ spending as the year goes on.

CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “It’s good to see the hospitality sectors in Britain’s top cities recovering much of their pre-Covid vibrancy after the removal of restrictions. As consumers continue to head back to city centre offices, retail centres and attractions we can hope for further increases in sales and footfall.

“Appetite for pubs, bars and restaurants is clearly as strong as ever, but mounting inflationary pressures and the upcoming return to the full rate of VAT threaten many fragile businesses. Hospitality can undoubtedly power cities’ economic revival, but a lack of support in last week’s Spring statement risks stalling the recovery just as it begins.”

Unprecedented challenges

Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “The return to positive, pre-Covid sales figures is fantastic news for the sector, with city centres clearly on the way up. Despite this hugely positive insight, the industry continues to face unprecedented challenges in the form of rising energy bills, a hike in VAT and record-high inflation.

“It is, therefore, vitally important that this positive sales uptick continues and we look forward to helping sector businesses to successfully navigate the waters ahead.”

Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy, for the four weeks to 12 March 2022 are as follows (numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four weeks to 12 February 2022):

  1. Glasgow (3)
  2. Birmingham (7)
  3. Manchester (2)
  4. Leicester (6)
  5. Leeds (9)
  6. Bristol (1)
  7. Liverpool (5)
  8. Edinburgh (8)
  9. Sheffield (4)
  10. London (10)

Data for the report is based on a sales data from CGA’s managed volume pool of more than 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants, and Wireless Social’s guest data gathered from more than 1m Wi-Fi log-ins.

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