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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

31 Jan 2023

Festive visits boost Britain's city centres

Pubs, restaurants and bars in Britain’s top cities enjoyed a positive end to 2022 as consumers returned for the first ‘normal’ Christmas for three years, the new ‘Top Cities’ report from Peach 20/20 partners CGA by NielsenIQ and Wireless Social reveals.

In the six-week festive period from 20 November 2022 to 1 January 2023, eight of Britain’s 10 most populous cities recorded more WiFi log-ins than in the equivalent period in 2019 — a strong indicator that consumer visits are returning to pre-COVID levels. 

Six of the 10 cities saw sales beat trading in the six-week period three years ago, following two festive seasons when hospitality was hit hard by restrictions and consumers’ concerns. London, however, remains at the foot of the league table.

The ‘Top Cities’ report combines sales data from CGA by NielsenIQ with check-in data from Wireless Social to produce a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of the 10 cities. Glasgow tops the list ahead of Birmingham and Manchester, after increasing both sales and check-ins on 2019. It is the fourth time in a row that these cities have shared the top three spots. 

But CGA’s separate Hospitality Market Monitor with AlixPartners shows that central Glasgow and Birmingham both now have more than 6%  (-6.2% and -7.1% respectively) fewer licensed premises than they did in December 2021, the highest year on year closure rate out of the top cities, suggesting that reduced competition between pubs, bars and restaurants may be helping to grow sales in these areas for managed operators.

At the other end of the rankings London is bottom for the fifth successive period, as the return of sales and footfall after COVID continues to lag other cities, despite steady improvement over 2022.

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.”
Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, 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.”

The latest ‘Top Cities’ report concludes a year of monthly rankings of the vibrancy of Britain’s top cities. Moving forward into 2023, the reports will be published quarterly, providing more extensive insights into hospitality sales and visitation.

Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy
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)
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.

Download the full report here.

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