Hospitality and leisure businesses accounted for over half of business closures in the City of London during 2020 according to data released by the Local Data Company .
The analysis revealed that 54% of all closures in the city in 2020 were hospitality and leisure units, of which 83% were national chains, as footfall declined due to the pandemic, and the introduction of lockdown and tiered restrictions.
The analysis also revealed that the number of unoccupied 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 pandemic.
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, typically serving a busy working population, who, since the pandemic broke have either been furloughed or have been working from home, often in the residential areas of London. As a result, many businesses, high Street brands in particular 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.”