New shops open in Lancaster as city continues to buck post-Covid national footfall trends
Lancaster BID said that the post-pandemic recovery in the city has been stronger than across much of the UK, with higher footfall, new businesses, and strong interest in vacant units.
Business Improvement District (BID) figures for May show that footfall - the number of people passing pedestrian counters at various locations in the city centre - was 25 per cent lower then 2019 compared with a UK average of 35.7 per cent.
But the gap has also continued to narrow each week with last week, starting May 31, recording footfall of 16.5 per cent below 2019 levels.
Tom Fyson from Lancaster BID said that confidence in Lancaster city centre is demonstrated by the number of new businesses which have already opened their doors.
This includes Irish Coffee Shop chain Bob and Berts in Penny Street which chose Lancaster for its first location in England.New Street has seen a strong resurgence with Fabrix, Ethel and Em and Journey Social all choosing the location to move closer to the city centre.
Cake lovers are well served with The Baked House opening last week on Gage Street and Russell’s Celebration Cakes opening in Penny Street this week.
Tom said: "With the development of the old BHS building underway and agents reporting strong interest in many other vacant units, there is a strong message that Lancaster is open for business.”
"Whilst numbers of visitors have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, many retail businesses have reported strong sales with a relative increase in the average transaction value.
"This shows confidence in Lancaster city centre and that local people, along with visitors from further afield, are feeling safe to return and are eager to support all our amazing businesses.”
The May Bank Holiday weekend also saw the return of public events in the city centre.
Lancaster BID's Superhero Day saw younger visitors learning all the best moves at Superhero Training School whilst Market Square was brought to life with fairground rides.
Tom said: "The event received positive feedback and proved that COVID restrictions are not a barrier to delivering safe and enjoyable experiences.
“Hospitality businesses are also reporting strong visitor numbers, in particular since May 17 when indoor service resumed.
"This will be boosted further when the final social distancing restrictions can be safely removed allowing venues to return to their full capacity.
"Although a delay to this date would be disappointing, it is clearly important to get the timing right to ensure no return to any lockdown measures is required in the future.”
Tim Tomlinson, chair of Lancaster Pubwatch and landlord of three pubs in the city: "The last few weeks have certainly remained pretty busy for Lancaster's pubs, bars and restaurants with the public very keen to go out, dine and socialise.
"The good weather has helped a lot with many venues reporting heavy bookings, particularly at the weekend where it can be difficult to get a reservation to eat unless you have booked well in advance.
"This is largely to do with people making up for lost time and going out more often than they would have typically done pre Covid.
"However it is also exacerbated by the reduced capacities in many venues, due to a combination of fewer tables as decreed by Covid regulations and also the nationally reported shortages in hospitality staff.
"Lancaster isn't suffering as band as places like London and the Lakes for this last problem, but many businesses have still reported difficulties recruiting extra staff to handle the increased demand post-lockdown freedom has brought.
"On behalf of all Lancaster's pubs restaurants and bars we'd like to say that we are all extremely happy and grateful to welcome back all our customers old and new, but we are certainly nowhere near being back to normal just yet.
"So if on their visit customers perhaps experience a slightly longer wait time or maybe service isn't quite as smooth as you might remember it 15 months ago please be patient.
"Everyone is doing their best and hopefully in the not too distant future everything will be much more normal."