Pubs, bars and restaurants continue to drive the post-COVID-19 recovery of Britain’s top cities, research from CGA by NielsenIQ and Wireless Social shows—but with costs soaring for consumers and businesses, the hospitality sector needs urgent support to help keep urban centres vibrant.
The joint ‘Top Cities’ report combines CGA’s sales data with device log-in data from Wireless Social, the leading connectivity solutions provider for hospitality and leisure businesses, to provide a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 27 August 2022.
Birmingham tops the report’s list for the first time in 2022—just ahead of Glasgow, the leader in the previous four-week period. Leicester and Liverpool are among the cities on the rise in the new chart, in third and fourth place respectively.
At the other end of the rankings, London is in 10th place—extending a run that has seen it finish no higher than eighth in any period so far this year. Sales and footfall in the capital have suffered from a shortage of office workers and tourists despite the ending of COVID-19 restrictions. Leeds’ performance mirrors that of London – with the city staying towards the bottom of the vibrancy rankings, driven by a negative sales performance and lower wireless login figures. See below for the full list of cities.
The report also reveals signs that hospitality’s city-centre recovery is at risk of slowing. Sales in four of Britain’s 10 biggest cities were lower than in the equivalent pre-COVID-19 period of 2019, while footfall, as measured by device log-ins, was behind in all 10. This may reflect the squeeze on consumer spending as the cost of living crisis mounts, as well as the effect of rail strikes on city travel.
CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “Restaurants, pubs and bars are integral to city-centre life, especially at a time when so much of retail has moved online, and they are at the heart of Britain’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. But as these figures show, that recovery is increasingly threatened by the impact of soaring fuel and food costs on businesses and consumers alike. Trading is likely to remain challenging for some time to come, and hospitality needs and deserves urgent support from government on energy bills, taxes and more if it is to continue creating jobs and investment in the country’s city centres."
Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “It’s good to see footfall and sales performance on the rise across the board in English cities, but the continued slow response in London is concerning. While the government’s recently announced support package on energy bills is set to be extremely beneficial for small and large businesses in our sector, it’s vital that the support doesn’t simply dry up. There are, of course, the options of reduced VAT and business rates relief still available to the government, and this level of further support is very likely going to be a requirement over the coming months.”
The series of ‘Top Cities: Vibrancy Ranking’ reports is based on a powerful combination of sales data from CGA’s Managed Volume Pool of more than 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants, and Wireless Social’s guest data gathered from more than one million log-ins. It provides the most accurate assessment yet of the vibrancy of Britain’s key city markets for eating and drinking out.
Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy
Rankings for the four weeks to 27 August 2022. Numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four-week period.
1 Birmingham (2)
2 Glasgow (1)
3 Leicester (5)
4 Liverpool (7)
5= Bristol (3)
5= Manchester (4)
7 Edinburgh (6)
8 Sheffield (8)
9 Leeds (10)
10 London (9)