Pubs, restaurants and bars have made a good start to the festive season in Britain’s major cities—but high inflation and rail strikes continue to make trading conditions very challenging.
The new ‘Top Cities’ report—compiled by hospitality research experts CGA by NielsenIQ and leading connectivity solutions provider Wireless Social—shows sales in the four weeks to 19 November were ahead of the same period in 2019 in eight of Britain’s 10 most populous cities.
Across the 10 cities, sales growth totalled around 4%, in line with the Coffer CGA Business Tracker which shows like-for-like sales +5% higher versus 2019 levels. Six of the 10 cities also recorded an increase in device log-ins—likely driven by the start of the festive season—but a promising sign that city-centre footfall is beginning to return to pre-COVID-19 patterns in most cities.
However, the soaring price of energy, food and other costs is putting both hospitality businesses’ margins and consumers’ spending under severe strain. With Britain’s rate of inflation reaching 11% in October, most operators’ city-centre sales are still well behind the levels of both 2021 and 2019.
The ’Top Cities’ report combines CGA’s sales data with Wireless Social’s check-in statistics to provide a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of the top 10 cities. Manchester tops the list for the third time in a row, with double-digit sales growth. It finished ahead of Glasgow and Birmingham, which features in the top three for the fifth successive period.
At the other end of the rankings London is bottom for the fourth period in a row, though sales and check-ins here continued to move closer to pre-COVID levels. See below for the full list of cities.
CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said, “Restaurants, pubs and bars have steadily built back from COVID-19 turmoil over the course of 2022, and these latest figures are encouraging for the key festive season.
“The World Cup, Christmas markets and parties should all deliver good footfall and spending, but the costs crisis and prospect of more rail strikes cast a shadow over the crucial final weeks of the year.
“Consumers are as keen as ever to eat and drink out, but with so many challenges not of their own making, some city-centre businesses face a make-or-break Christmas.”
Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social added, “There is continued appetite from consumers to go out and visit their favourite hospitality venues, which we’re seeing in this latest report.
“The much-needed footfall and trading boost on the back of the World Cup and the festive season is extremely welcome indeed. However, the industry is still fraught with challenges, not least by the threat of the rail strike action and the cost-of-doing-business crisis, and the new year ahead is going to be very tough for the sector as it continues on the path to recovery.”
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.