New data released by the Centre for Cities showed that Huddersfield topped the national charts for consumer spending following last month’s lifting of lockdown restrictions on non-essential retail.
The think tank’s High Street Recovery Tracker analysis said that the easing of restrictions had provided a much-needed boost to many high streets as spending surged to pre-pandemic levels in more than half of Britain’s cities and large towns.
Barnsley was also shown to have recovered strongly, with six of the top 10 towns or cities which has seen the best rates of recovery situated in the North of England. Of the 35 places studied where spending has returned to pre-pandemic levels, 20 are in the North and Midlands.
However, the same report showed that larger cities are continuing to struggle, with Yorkshire’s largest city, Leeds, shown to be in the bottom 10 alongside London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
Centre for Cities bosses called upon the Government and England’s newly elected metro mayors to set out plans to encourage people to return to the centres of our largest cities saying that, without the return of visitors, tourists and office workers to these places, thousands of jobs in shops, restaurants, pubs and other city centre services would remain under threat.
Centre for Cities’ chief executive, Andrew Carter, said: “We can already see that the vaccination programme and lifting of lockdown is helping businesses get back on their feet. 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.”
The data appears to continue a wider trend seen since the first lockdown was introduced in the Spring of 2020 of consumers preferring to stay local rather than head to larger urban city centres.
Out-of-town shopping centres, along with suburban shops and smaller towns, tend to have fared better as consumers remain anxious about crowded high streets and using public transport.
From Monday, hospitality venues can begin opening their doors again, although social distancing requirements remain in place.