The full impact of the Covid lockdown on York city centre traders was laid bare today (Monday).
Businesses lost almost half a year’s worth of sales, according to the latest Centre for Cities report.
In all, 22 weeks worth of sales were lost during the pandemic.
In Yorkshire, Leeds fared the worst, with 39 weeks of lost sales, while Huddersfield was the least badly hit with 12 weeks lost.
Nationally, Covid-19 has cost businesses in city and large town centres more than a third (35%) of their potential takings since March 2020.
More encouragingly for York, it was the Yorkshire city with the fewest vacant city centre units after June 2021 – 11.4%. Nationally, that meant York had the fourth-smallest share of vacancies.
Worst hit in Yorkshire was Bradford with 27.6% vacancies, while Leeds had 19.6%.
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “While the pandemic has been a tough time for all high streets it has levelled down more prosperous cities and towns in Yorkshire. Despite this, the strength of their wider local economies means they are well placed to recover quickly from the past two years.”
‘Fleet of foot’
Andrew Lowson, of the York BID (Business Improvement District), thinks York is in a strong position to bounce back.
“National reports can be very useful for understanding over-arching themes, but you often have to dig a bit deeper at the local level to understand the full picture,” he told YorkMix.
“York, like all cities, has lost weeks of ‘normal trade’. However many of our businesses adapted their trading models quickly, for instance marketing to domestic instead of foreign tourists; or increasing their digital offers and sales to compensate for the reduced physical footfall.
“I have found businesses in York to be fleet of foot and many reported strong trading towards the end of 2021, which has put them in a quietly optimistic place as we start 2022.
“Certainty and confidence is crucial to business planning and consumer confidence. Let us all hope the easing of restrictions we are now seeing is the end of what has been a roller-coaster journey for businesses.”
Cllr Andrew Waller, City of York Council’s executive member for the economy, said: “This positive data and York’s overall recovery success is a testament to the proactive and strong partnership work with businesses and key partners such as the BID, traders associations, and Federation of Small Businesses, Indie York and Retail Forum across the city throughout the pandemic.
“There are many challenges yet ahead for our local economy and it’s clear that as a region there is a need for the government to deliver on their levelling up promises.
“That is why we will continue to make the case for long term support and investment in the North and our changing high streets.
“Locally, we will continue to do all that’s possible to support our businesses and ensure the city continues a strong and sustainable recovery and work with organisations to bring back into use pockets of empty premises such as on Coney Street.”