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London hospitality struggling the most post-covid

Published:  01 March, 2022

Hospitality sectors in major British cities including Bristol and Manchester are recovering their vibrancy as Covid restrictions wind down, according to new research.

The latest data from CGA and Wireless Social combines sales and device log-in data to assess the performance of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 12 February 2022.

It shows that London is in bottom place for the second time in a row, with sales and check-ins still 11% and 38% down on pre-covid levels respectively. While both figures are improvements on the previous four weeks, it suggests workers have been slow to return to the capital, and the shortfall of tourists has reduced sales further. There were modest drops in sales in other leading cities, but clear signs that trading is improving. 

Elsewhere in the rankings, Bristol was the most vibrant of the 10 cities, with eating-out and drinking-out sales in modest growth from pre-Covid levels and check-in numbers improving. Sales were also up in Manchester, lifting the city from ninth place in the last report to second in this one. Glasgow is the third-placed city, while Sheffield moves up four places to fourth.

Across the 10 cities monitored by CGA and Wireless Social, sales were just 3% down on the same period in 2019– a sharp improvement on the 10% shortfall in the previous four weeks. However, with inflation running high, sales are substantially lower than 2019 levels in real terms. Since check-in numbers are flat compared to the previous period, the improvement may be due to greater spending per head rather than increases in visits.

CGA’s client director Chris Jeffrey said: “While many consumers are making up for lost time in pubs, bars and restaurants, others remain cautious about spending as inflation mounts, and trading in London remains particularly challenging. Recovery is going to be fragile, and achieving real-terms growth will be tough amid high inflation. But it is already clear that hospitality will be pivotal to the economic revival of Britain’s cities in 2022.”

Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “It’s really encouraging to see activity is on the rise for hospitality across UK cities, after what has been an unprecedented two years. However, sector businesses still face mounting economic challenges, with the impending rises in VAT, energy bills and inflation on the horizon. 

“This is why we fully support UKHospitality’s ongoing campaign to ensure the VAT rate is kept at 12.5% and the planned increase to 20% is scrapped. Measures like these are needed to ensure sales and footfall continue to climb, which is vitally important to our industry’s recovery.”

Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy

Rankings for the four weeks to 12 February 2022. Numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four weeks to 15 January 2022.

1 Bristol (3)

2 Manchester (9)

3 Glasgow (2)

4 Sheffield (8)

5 Liverpool (6)

6 Leicester (5)

7 Birmingham (4)

8 Edinburgh (7)

9 Leeds (1)

10 London (10)