Consumer spending reaches pre-pandemic levels in UK towns rather than cities

High Street Recovery Tracker
High street spending has recovered the most in Huddersfield, Basildon and Blackburn
// Spending in large towns and smaller cities are recovering faster than large urban centres
// The lifting of lockdown restrictions provided a boost to high streets in over half of the cities and large towns
// Northern England and the Midlands is far recovering faster than elsewhere

New research has found that the Covid-19 vaccination programme and lifting of lockdown provided a much-needed boost to many high streets as spending surged to pre-pandemic levels.

Centre for Cities’ High Street Recovery Tracker said that spending in the UK’s large towns and smaller cities are recovering faster than in its largest urban centres.

Although April’s lifting of lockdown restrictions provided a boost to high streets in more than half of the cities and large towns, cities are continuing to struggle.


READ MORE: April online retail sales holds up as shoppers returned to high streets


Northern England and the Midlands is far recovering faster than elsewhere – of the 35 places studied where spending has returned to pre-pandemic levels, 20 are in the North and Midlands.

High street spending has recovered the most in Huddersfield, Basildon and Blackburn, while London, Aldershot, Oxford and Birmingham have shown the weakest recoveries in England.

Although spending in Scottish cities is the lowest in the UK in April, retail and hospitality opened at a later date than in England.

The government and England’s newly elected metro mayors must set out plans to encourage people to return to the centres of our largest cities.

Without the return of visitors, tourists and office workers thousands of jobs in shops, restaurants, pubs and other city centre services remain under threat.

“We can already see that the vaccination programme and lifting of lockdown is helping businesses get back on their feet,” Centre for Cities’ chief executive Andrew Carter said.

“Many cities and towns, particularly those in Northern England and the Midlands, have seen a boom in consumer spending in the past month.

“It’s not all good news, the centres of our biggest cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester remain quiet as people there continue to work from home.

“If this doesn’t change in the next few months I’d expect to see more people working in retail and hospitality in our biggest city centres lose their jobs.

“The government must work with the newly-elected metro mayors to stop this happening.”

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