The latest ‘top cities’ research from CGA and Wireless Social suggested trading in Britain’s 10 most populated cities has improved on the benchmarks of 2019 in six consecutive four-week periods this year.
Sales over the latest four weeks, to 2 July, were 2% higher than the same period in 2019, on average.
The data also revealed a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of Britain’s cities, which found over the course of the first half of the year, Glasgow secured the highest average rating, scoring the best for vibrancy in three of the six four-week periods.
In second was Bristol, following by Birmingham in third. Between the end of February and the beginning of June, Manchester performed better than any other British city.
Slow pick up in London
Top 10 biggest cities in vibrancy:
The 'top cities' research combines CGA sales data with device log in data from Wireless Social to provide a 'vibrancy' ranking of Britain's cities.
However, London consistently finished at the bottom over the first half of the year, with sales dropping by 8% compared to 2019 in the last four weeks to 2 July.
This was put down to a slower than hoped return of office workers and tourists, which was worsened by the recent rail strikes. But there are signs sales are now approaching pre-Covid levels, according to the research.
Furthermore, the data revealed fluctuations in vibrancy from city to city and month to month as the most recent four-week period to 2 July put Leicester at the top for the first time, with Edinburgh second. Bristol and Leeds were third and fourth in the latest list.
Wireless Social founder and CEO Julian Ross 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 is vital the sector receives as much support and backing as it can possibly get, only then will hubs like London truly return to form.”
Huge inflationary pressures
While Covid hit high streets hard, the research showed how hospitality can revitalise them, according to CGA client director Chris Jeffrey.
He added: “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 [the] Government to help sustain fragile businesses over this challenging period.”