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City centres roaring back to life as workers return to their desks

City centres roaring back to life as workers return to their desks, according to two leading companies

  • SSP and Shaftesbury said ending of work-from-home guidance was boosting business 










City centres are roaring back to life as workers return to their desks, according to two leading companies. 

Upper Crust-owner SSP and West End landlord Shaftesbury said the ending of work-from-home guidance is boosting business and helping the economy to recover. 

In particular, the return of office workers has been a much needed boost for pubs, restaurants and shops devastated by the spread of Omicron. 

On the move: The ending of work-from-home guidance is boosting business and helping the economy to recover

The Government’s Plan B measures and work-from-home guidance turned city centres into ghost towns. 

On what should have been one of the busiest days in the run up to Christmas, footfall in city centres was a third below pre-pandemic levels. 

But Shaftesbury and SSP said footfall and commuter numbers are surging back following the guidance lifting. 

Shaftesbury, which owns 600 restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops in London’s West End, said it is ready for an ‘extended period of uninterrupted growth’. It said vacancy rates are falling back towards pre-pandemic levels, in a further sign the worst of the pandemic has passed. 

The business said the return of international travel would also support city centres bouncing back from Covid. 

SSP, whose brands include Camden Food Co and Ritazza, said the emergence of Omicron and extra restrictions was a blow to its recovery. 

The company is seen as a barometer for commuter traffic and international travel because of its stores in airports and train stations. 

It was hammered by the pandemic as railway stations and airports were emptied and it was forced to cut around 4,000 jobs. At one point, just ten of its 580 UK sites were open, eight of them in hospitals. 

Before the Omicron variant emerged, it was trading at 66 per cent of pre-pandemic levels as the number of passengers on trains picked up, driven by the ending of lockdown and staff returning to offices. 

This dropped to 57 per cent in December and January because of Plan B measures and the work-from-home guidance. But sales have since picked up, especially in the UK and in European countries where restrictions have been dropped.

It said yesterday that sales are heading back to pre-pandemic levels driven by strong demand at train stations as workers get back to their desks. Around 1,950 of its 2,700 outlets are open and it said barring any further restrictions it is well placed for a strong summer.

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