York bucks consumer squeeze in run up to Christmas

Spend in York City centre was back to pre-covid levels in the final quarter of 2022, which goes against trends seen in other parts of the UK and delivered a welcome boost to York businesses.  Data from VISA and used by York BID and City York Council to understand economic performance, shows that hotels and restaurants were the big winners, with clothing also seeing strong sales as the people got back to socialising without the covid restrictions of the previous two years.

Andrew Lowson, Executive Director of the York BID said “The months leading up to Christmas are the key trading period for most retail and hospitality.  With businesses facing cost pressures on many fronts, it is great to see that trade was strong and once again demonstrates that York has a great offer that both visitors and locals enjoy”. 

When broken down, the VISA data shows that December was particularly strong for sales and Mr Lowson thinks there are specific reasons for this; “Businesses were telling us that they had customers explaining they were doing more physical shopping before Christmas than usual, because they were unsure if goods purchased on the internet would reach them due to postal strikes.  These anecdotes are backed up by the data we have, as online spend in York was lower for this period when compared to 2021.”

Footfall data for the start of 2023 also seems to provide reasons for optimism and fly in the face of national headlines on consumer squeeze.  Footfall cameras based in York City centre are showing that after a slow start in January, footfall is rising above 2022 levels.  Feedback from hotels highlight a better than anticipated February half term, with events such as the Ice Trail, Viking Festival and the Colour and Light projection on the Minster enticing people into the city.

Mr Lowson adds “The city has put on some great winter offerings and as a result, people have been spending.  We now look to spring and summer and hope the good trade continues.  We saw American tourists start to return in 2022 and it will be interesting to see if we get Chinese visitors now that covid restrictions are easing in Asia’.

Councillor Ashley Mason, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said “It’s great to see hard evidence backing up what we have heard from York’s business community about the continued strength of trade in the city centre. This is a testament to the local business community’s innovation and resilience and our work with partners to support York’s economic recovery and long-term success.

“We are continuing to do everything we can to sustain the city’s economic success, working with partners across the city to support York’s thriving business community. I’d encourage local businesses to get in touch with our Economic Growth team and sign up to our weekly business newsletter to hear about the latest business news, funding opportunities and much more.”

Data sources: VISA & O2 data supplied via Movement Insights.  Footfall data from Springboard