Ipswich leads High Street recovery for Eastern region

High Streets in Peterborough and Ipswich are returning to pre-pandemic activity levels more rapidly than other cities in the Eastern 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 79% for Peterborough and 78% for Ipswich, while Norwich and Cambridge footfall statistics are only two thirds (66% and 65% respectively) of the level they were at prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Eastern 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 Eastern cities have experienced a sharp fall in both areas during the pandemic, recovery rates across the region are notably mixed.

High Street spending in Norwich appears to be closest to full recovery at 88%, while offline sales in Ipswich city centre have risen to 79% of their pre-lockdown figure. Peterborough and Cambridge rank at 75% and 69% respectively.

The region’s city centres have a low proportion of workers returning to the office, with Ipswich at 29% and Peterborough at 24%, while Norwich and Cambridge have an even smaller share, at 22% and 19%.

R3 Eastern Chair Alistair Bacon, of AMB Law 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 footfall impacted heavily by 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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