UK spending recovers but larger cities trail behind

By the end of April, customer spending returned to pre-pandemic levels in 35 cities compared to less than five in July of last year.

But larger city centres are still lagging behind.

While small and medium-sized city centres are approaching full recovery, with over 90 per cent recovery on average, larger city centres are experiencing only 72 per cent recovery on average.

Across the UK’s 62 largest city centres, customer spending reached 72 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels last month.

The Centre for Cities’ High Street Recovery Tracker also found there are signs of a “vaccine-driven boost,” as overall spend recovery is 26 per cent higher than what it was immediately after non-essential businesses opened last summer.

Huddersfield, Basildon and Blackburn are the cities with the strongest recovery, each of them above 115 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

London lags far behind at just 53 per cent and large cities like Birmingham, Newcastle and Birmingham are also in the bottom 10.

This does not mean that London and other large cities have not benefitted from the vaccine boost. In London, for example, spend levels are already 26 per cent higher than what they were in July 2020. This could reflect a greater confidence in public transport usage, backed by TFL data.

But it also might mean that larger city centres won’t experience a full recovery until more people go back to the office.

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