City centre sales remain 'well below' pre-pandemic levels

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Top cities report: Glasgow named UK's most vibrant city but city centre sales across the nation remain well below pre-pandemic levels (Credit: Getty/Empato)
Top cities report: Glasgow named UK's most vibrant city but city centre sales across the nation remain well below pre-pandemic levels (Credit: Getty/Empato)

Related tags Cga Wireless Social Finance

Sales across the UK’s top 10 cities remained "well below" pre-pandemic levels over the festive period, the latest Top Cities Report from CGA by NielsenIQ and Wireless Social has revealed.

The data, based on information from 8,000 hospitality venues, showed eight of the 10 cities included in the data recorded more wireless log-ins during the six weeks from 20 November 2022 to 1 January 2023 than the equivalent period in 2019.

Additionally, six of the cities saw sales finish ahead of the same period three-years ago, a strong indicator on-trade visits had returned to normal following two festive seasons when hospitality was hit hard by restrictions and consumer concerns.

However, after adjustments for inflation and with rail strikes having reduced visits to pubs, bars and restaurants in city centres, soaring costs for businesses and consumers dampened growth in December.

Triple challenge 

CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “After Covid wiped out festive trading in 2020 and severely curtailed it in 2021, the return to normal conditions gave city centre pubs, bars and restaurants a decent end to 2022.

“However, while footfall has returned, high inflation is making real terms growth very difficult, and as we move into 2023 venues face a triple challenge of soaring costs, fragile consumer confidence and rail strikes.

“Operators and suppliers will be hoping for respite on all three issues, but until it comes it will be a very challenging year for the sector.”

According to the ‘Top Cities’ report, which combines sales figures from CGA with check-in data from Wireless Social, Glasgow topped the list ahead of Birmingham and Manchester after increasing both sales and check-ins on 2019, marking the fourth time in a row these cities have shared the top three spots.

However, CGA’s separate Hospitality Market Monitor with AlixPartners indicated central Glasgow and Birmingham now have more than 6% (-6.2% and -7.1% respectively) fewer licensed premises than December 2021.

Winter blues 

This was the highest year on year closure rate of all the top cities and suggested reduced competition may be helping grow sales in these areas for managed operators.

At the other end of the rankings, London finished bottom for a fifth successive period, with the return of sales and footfall after Covid continuing to lag behind other cities despite steady improvement over 2022. 

Wireless Social CEO and founder Julian Ross said: “Footfall and sales were expected to significantly increase over Christmas, due to it being the first festive period without any trading restrictions for three years, so it was somewhat of a relief that the period provided a much-needed boost to the industry.

“However, the winter blues feel a lot stronger than usual right now due to the myriad of challenges and issues that are out of business leaders’ control, and only time will tell how the sector ultimately recovers and bounces back.”

Rankings for the six weeks from 20 November 2022 to 1 January 2023.

(Numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous period)

1 Glasgow (2)

2 Birmingham (3)

3 Manchester (1)

4 Leicester (6)

5 Edinburgh (4)

6 Bristol (5)

7 Sheffield (8)

8 Liverpool (7)

9 Leeds (9)

10 London (10)

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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