Around 54% of all closures seen in the City of London in 2020 were hospitality and leisure units, of which 83% were national chains.
Analysis released today by retail data consultancy the Local Data Company revealed that in 2020, the number of vacant units in the City of London increased by 47% from 174 at the end of 2019 to 255 at the end of 2020, as workers stayed home during the Covid-19 pandemic and footfall fell across the district.
In 2020, the vacancy rate increased by 3.5% in the City, compared to an average increase of 1.3% for Greater London and 1.6% for the whole of Great Britain. Vacancy is now at the highest level in five years in the City where retail stock is densely supplied with food-to-go units, pubs, bars and restaurants, usually serving the busy working population, who for almost a full year have been working from home, often in the outer, more residential areas of London. As a result, many brands have had to close locations where footfall has declined significantly.
Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said: "The City of London has been dramatically hit given that the vast majority of the worker population, on which these businesses are almost solely reliant, went away overnight as the government's initial work-from-home order kicked in. The fact that a significant number of retailers deemed ‘essential' have chosen not to open in this location throughout various lockdowns, despite their ability to trade, is a further indication of just how low current consumer demand is in the City.
"Looking forward we might expect that once people are able to safely return to offices, the need, and demand, for this supporting economy will return just as quickly as it went away, presenting a real opportunity for agile operators especially in those key categories such as takeaway food shops, bars and restaurants."