However, soaring costs and rail strikes threaten trade in the busiest period of the year, according to the latest Top Cities report from insight expert CGA by NielsenIQ and connectivity solutions provider Wireless Social for the four weeks to 19 November.
Across the 10 cities, sales growth totalled around 4%, in line with the Coffer CGA Business Tracker, which shows like-for-like sales 5% higher versus 2019 levels. Six of the 10 cities also recorded an increase in device log-ins, which is likely to be driven by the start of the festive season but also a sign city centre footfall is beginning to return to pre-Covid-19 patterns in most cities.
Most operators well behind
However, soaring price energy, food and other costs means most operators’ city centre sales are still well behind the levels of both 2021 and 2019.
The Top Cities report provides a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of the top 10 cities with Manchester topping the list for the third time in a row after recording double-digit sales growth. It finished ahead of Glasgow and Birmingham, which features in the top three for the fifth successive period. At the other end of the scale, London is bottom for the fourth period in a row though sales and check-ins continued to move closer to pre-pandemic levels.
Positions four to nine are filled, in order, by Edinburgh, Bristol, Leicester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds.
CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “Restaurants, pubs and bars have steadily built back from Covid-19 turmoil over the course of 2022, and these latest figures are encouraging for the key festive season.
“The World Cup, Christmas markets and parties should all deliver good footfall and spending but the costs crisis and prospect of more rail strikes cast a shadow over the crucial final weeks of the year.
“Consumers are as keen as ever to eat and drink out but with so many challenges not of their own making, some city centre businesses face a make-or-break Christmas.”
Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, added: “The much-needed footfall and trading boost on the back of the World Cup and the festive season is extremely welcome. However, the industry is still fraught with challenges, not least by the threat of the rail strike action and the cost-of-doing-business crisis, and the new year ahead is going to be very tough for the sector as it continues on the path to recovery.”