A new report has revealed that the resilience of high street spending in Warrington has seen the town outperform most other big cities and towns during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cities Outlook 2022, the annual health-check on the UK’s largest economies, shows that Britain’s biggest cities have lost almost a year’s worth of sales during the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns and a lack of visitors causing a collapse in consumer spending.
According to the report, published by thinktank Centre for Cities, Central London lost the equivalent of 47 weeks of sales between March 2020 and September 2021, due to the impact of the pandemic. Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff almost lost almost a year of sales.
In comparison, Warrington has performed well, losing only 11 weeks of sales – more than four times less than London. This places Warrington as the second-best performing of the UK’s 62 largest towns or cities, in terms of reduced high street spending.
Focusing on the retail and hospitality sectors, Cities Outlook 2022 has analysed spending between March 2020 and November 2021, compared with the average value for weekly transactions in 2019, before the crisis hit.
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Innovation, Cllr Tom Jennings, said: “Warrington has a strong, resilient business sector, which – along with a continued desire from our residents to spend local and support local businesses – has put us in a good position to weather the impact of the pandemic.
“This latest analysis from Centre for Cities shows that in comparison to other major towns and cities Warrington’s high street has continued to perform relatively well since 2020. This is good news for Warrington and can give us confidence as our town centre continues on the road to economic recovery.”
The Cities Outlook Report 2022, follows on from Centre for Cities ‘High Streets Recovery Tracker’ at the end of 2020, which placed Warrington 2nd in the UK for COVID high street spend recovery.
Across the North West, central Manchester was worst affected, losing 41 weeks of sales between the first lockdown and Omicron’s onset. Businesses in Wigan and Preston city centres are also among the worst hit. Burnley’s city centre lost the fewest weeks of sales (8 weeks) making it the least affected in the country, followed by Warrington with 11 weeks.
Nationally, Covid-19 has cost businesses in city and large town centres more than a third (35%) of their potential takings since March 2020, with central London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff worst affected. Across the 52 city and town centres studied, 2426 commercial units have become vacant during the pandemic, against 1374 between 2018 and 2020.
Warrington Chamber of Commerce CEO Stephen Fitzsimons said: “Retailers in Warrington will certainly not be celebrating being one of the “least worst” in the North West for lost trade. However, there are reasons to be positive, with footfall and car park volumes regularly exceeding 80% of 2019 levels. More striking is the visible regeneration that is occurring, especially on Bridge Street where buildings such as the former JJB store and Martins Bank finally have high-quality tenants after a decade of sitting empty.
“We know the high street is evolving and local entrepreneurs are ready to enhance the visitor experience for loyal Warringtonians.”