Recession hitting Bristol city centre businesses hard as worried shoppers cut back on spending

November 25, 2022

Businesses in central Bristol suffered a slump in sales of more than 11% in just three months as the cost of living crisis hit the city, according to new figures.

Total spending in shops, bars, cafes, hotels and other businesses in the city centre fell from £142.6m in the second quarter of this year to £128.1m in the third quarter. 

The data, collected for the Bristol City Centre and Redcliffe & Temple BIDs (Business Improvement Districts), has been released as businesses in the area prepare for what could be the most challenging Christmas for decades.

Hardest hit between July and September were supermarkets, according to the figures, with spending at their checkouts plunging by 43% to £10m. Clothing stores suffered a 23% reduction in sales to £20m, while restaurants, pubs and clubs saw their sales decline by 10% to £35m.

The only bright spot was a 2% increase in spending in the area’s hotels and other accommodation businesses to £9m.

The sharp slowdown in overall spending was in sharp contrast to the first half of the year when retailers, hotels, food and drink businesses and clothing outlets all benefited from increased spending.

Redcliffe & Temple BID head Steve Bluff said: “We knew at the end of the second quarter that there were significant business challenges ahead, our conversations with business owners at that time highlighted impact on their profits and the concerns for quarter three.

“Our data shows that businesses have taken a hit in Q3 and it is important that we develop projects and services to help support them in the coming months.

“We have a big focus on Christmas this year and supporting a good trading period, by attracting people into the city to spend time and support local businesses.”

Bristol City Centre BID Vicky Lee added: “Our role as a BID is to support businesses through the challenging economic landscape which we know is changing the spending habits of people in the city.

“Our programme of projects and events, both current and in the future, is focused on attracting visitors into Bristol city centre and encouraging them to shop local across the festive period and into the New Year.

“We are focused on driving footfall into businesses during the start of next year with events planned across January, February and March including the return of Bristol Light Festival in early February 2023 which with a longer duration will be encouraging people from outside of the city to visit.”

Visit West director of tourism Kathryn Davis said the data clearly showed an international boom in Bristol across the summer period.

“The return of international visitors – whether students, or those travelling for leisure or business – has had a huge impact in the local visitor economy,” she added.

“Visitors from 118 nations have visited during the summer, highlighting the city’s popularity with inbound markets.

“Visit West has continued to invest in work with international travel trade, with recent sales missions in the United States, as well as a successful World Travel Market helping raise the profile of the city and the region as well as deliver collaborative consumer campaigns for our domestic market.”

The latest data is based on ‘in-premises’ Visa spend across businesses in the BS1, BS2 and BS8 postcodes.

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