Derby and Stoke-on-Trent lead High Street recovery as Midlands cities fight back from lockdown

Derby city centre

High Streets in Derby and Stoke-on-Trent are returning to pre-pandemic activity levels more rapidly than other cities in the Midlands region, according to new research by the Centre for Cities.

The statistics, which indicate average footfall levels in city centres for the last full week of August, show an overall recovery index of 84% for Derby and 80% for Stoke, while Nottingham and Leicester footfall statistics are half the level they were prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, at 51%. In the West Midlands, Coventry’s recovery index stands at 67%, while Birmingham’s index registers considerably lower at 47%.

The Midlands branch of the insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 says the figures show the extent of the challenge facing the region’s High Streets as they strive to fight back from a virus which has caused footfall levels to tumble in city centres.

The research also looks at consumer spending and the return of workers to the city centre, comparing figures with pre-lockdown levels. Although all Midlands cities have experienced a sharp fall in both areas during the pandemic, recovery rates across the region are noticeably mixed.

High Street spending in Stoke appears to have recovered completely (100%), while offline sales in Derby city centre have risen to 85% of their pre-lockdown figure. Coventry and Birmingham also rank relatively highly for High Street spend, at 85% and 81% respectively, while Nottingham sits at 72% and Leicester at 43%.

Coventry and Birmingham have the highest proportion of workers returning to the office, at 62% and 50% respectively, while Leicester and Nottingham have the lowest, at 17% and 18%. Just over a third (35%) of city centre workers in Stoke have returned to their offices, with only three-in-ten returning in Nottingham (29%).

R3 Midlands chair Eddie Williams, a partner at Grant Thornton in the region, said: “The research paints a very mixed picture for our cities and highlights the enormous challenge facing centrally-located businesses as they fight to recover post-lockdown.

“This struggle is compounded by the need for city centres to reinvent themselves over the longer term, with the rise in popularity of online shopping and more people working from home and socialising locally.

“Government measures such as the Job Retention Scheme, tax payment deferrals and business rates holidays will have helped many city centre businesses in their battle for survival during the pandemic, but more still needs to be done if we are to see a significant recovery.

“Inevitably, there will be some city centre businesses which will continue to struggle and which are, or will be, seriously concerned about their ongoing financial health.

“If your company has significant cashflow difficulties, R3’s advice is not to hold back – talk to a qualified professional as soon as problems arise. Doing so will afford the best chance of recovery and will greatly improve the options for business rescue.”

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