Pandemic has cost some places nearly a years’ worth of high street sales, new Centre for Cities report reveals

Centre for Cities has released their annual economic assessment of the UK’s largest urban areas ‘Cities Outlook 2022’. 

Covid-19 has cost businesses in city and large town centres more than a third (35%) of their potential takings and shut down thousands since March 2020.  

Central London is worst affected, losing 47 weeks of sales between the first lockdown and Omicron’s onset. Businesses in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff city centres are also among the worst hit; all have also lost nearly a year’s worth of potential sales.

Burnley’s centre lost the fewest weeks of sales (8 weeks) during the pandemic, followed by Warrington, Huddersfield and then Blackburn, with 12 weeks in lost sales.

Across the 52 city and town centres studied, 2,426 commercial units have become vacant during the pandemic, against 1,374 between 2018 and 2020. In many prosperous city centres, lost sales are linked to an increase in business closures.

In Oxford and Newcastle city centres the number of empty storefronts increased by around eight percentage points as sales fell.  Blackburn is ranked in fifth place in the report with 26.2% of city centre units vacant, however 10 places have been excluded from the table due to missing data. 

The report suggests that ‘For struggling places, policy makers drafting the Levelling Up White Paper should focus on dealing with struggling places’ fundamental economic problems to address high street decline. This means investing in skills and ways to strengthen the wider local economy to increase money in shoppers’ pockets, rather than on ‘cosmetic’ quick fixes such as hanging baskets and painting shop fronts.’

You can find more details about the report here:

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