Cities report

Edinburgh shops among biggest victims of Covid

Shop-vacancies-on-Princes-Street
Central Edinburgh has suffered from shop closures (pic: Terry Murden)

Edinburgh has emerged as one of the four UK cities whose high streets have been the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic because of their higher rents and the lack of office workers.

The capital joins central London, Birmingham and Cardiff among those cities which have lost more than a third of their potential takings since March 2020.

Across Scotland, city centres have seen more than half a year’s worth of potential takings disappear, according to Cities Outlook 2022 by the Centre for Cities.

Central Edinburgh is worst affected, losing 43 weeks of sales between the first lockdown and Omicron’s onset. Businesses in Glasgow and Aberdeen city centres are also hard hit. Dundee’s city centre lost the fewest weeks of sales (32 weeks) in Scotland.

The study looked at 52 city and town centres across the UK and found that 2,426 commercial units have become vacant during the pandemic, against 1,374 between 2018 and 2020.

Interestingly, high streets in economically weaker places have been less impacted by Covid-19, while in economically stronger places, business closures increased.

The researchers say this suggests that the Government’s Covid-19 support successfully stalled the decline of many struggling high streets but was less effective in economically stronger places due to higher rents and a lack of custom from office workers. 

That said, while stronger city centres have borne the economic brunt of the pandemic, their higher levels of affluence mean that, when restrictions end and office workers return, they will likely recover quickly.

The report warns that many less prosperous places in Scotland face a wave of new business closures this year.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “While the pandemic has been a tough time for all high streets it has levelled down more prosperous cities and towns in Scotland. Despite this, the strength of their wider local economies means they are well placed to recover quickly from the past two years.”



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