Britain’s city centres edge to recovery as sales and footfall rise

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Building back: Cities slowly climb to pre-pandemic vibrancy levels (Getty/ Matteo Colombo)
Building back: Cities slowly climb to pre-pandemic vibrancy levels (Getty/ Matteo Colombo)

Related tags London Glasgow Birmingham Sales Finance

London’s hospitality centre has edged back to pre-Covid vibrancy levels as sales and footfall have increased in Britain’s cities following two years of disruption.

The Top Cities Vibrancy Report​ combined CGA’s sales data with device log-in data from Wireless Social to provide a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 9 April 2022. CGA’s data was taken from a pool of more than 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants, with Wireless Social’s statistics gathered from more than 1m log-ins.

After finishing last in the list for three periods in a row, London has moved to eighth place. While trading remains just below the levels of March and April 2019, the return of more office workers and tourists to the capital raises hopes that raises and check-ins will rise further as the year goes on.

More bumps in the road

Glasgow tops the rankings for the second time, where sales were up by 8% on 2019, and check-ins only 10% below. It is followed by Birmingham and Manchester, which also saw sales growth. Sheffield has replaced London at the bottom of the chart, where sales have been flat, and check-ins are a third off 2019’s levels.

CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said it was good to see signs pre-pandemic vibrancy was returning after closures and the shortage of office workers, visitors and shoppers took a heavy toll on London hospitality.

That regional cities were also building back, for Jeffrey, raised hopes for a strong summer. However, he believed cost-of-living pressures casted a shadow over prospects.

When combined with rising food, energy and labour costs, this could cause “more bumps on city centres’ road to recovery”, he concluded.

A long way to go

Across Britain’s top 10 cities, CGA’s data showed average sales in the four weeks to 9 April were 3% ahead of the same period in 2019, while Wireless Social’s figures indicated that device check-ins remained 32% down.

Wireless Social founder and chief executive Julian Ross said while it was “great” to see the capital climbing the ranks, there was still a long way to go before cities were back to pre-Covid levels of activity.

During the summer months, Ross expected to see an uplift, with occasions like the Jubilee, women’s Euro’s and the Commonwealth Games set to drive excitement amongst consumers.

“However,” he continued, “huge uncertainty remains present, as city centre-based firms continue to adopt flexible working practices that, for the most part, will continue to be damaging for hospitality.

“This, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting consumer confidence, will take its toll on further recovery in city-centre hubs like London.”

Britain’s 10 biggest cities ranked by vibrancy (rankings for the four weeks to 9 April 2022, numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four weeks to 12 March 2022)


Glasgow (1)


Birmingham (2)


Manchester (3)


Leicester (4)


Bristol (6)


Liverpool (7)


Leeds (5)


London (10)


Edinburgh (8)


Sheffield (9)

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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