Dec 2, 2021 - Business

Center City retailers rebounding from pandemic, report shows

Shoppers walk past Urban Outfitters in Center City.
Shoppers walk past Urban Outfitters in Center City. Photo courtesy of Matt Stanley/Center City District

Center City retailers are rebounding from the economic damage caused by the pandemic, but challenges remain, a new report found.

Driving the news: Returning shoppers, students, tourists and workers have helped fuel an economic recovery for businesses in the city's core downtown this year, according to the report by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.

Details: The report, published last month, found that 67 retailers and restaurants have opened in Center City so far this year. Other key takeaways include:

  • A total of 68 businesses were temporarily closed as of September, down from 646 in June 2020.
  • Pedestrian traffic rose to more than 309,000 in October, up from 108,300 in April 2020.
  • Retail and restaurant demand is estimated at $1.1 billion this year in core Center City and in excess of $2 billion in Greater Philadelphia.

Zoom out: 15 major projects, including two office buildings and 2,980 new housing units, are now under construction in the area.

Yes, but: Challenges persist. The business vacancy rate in Center City was 17.4% in September, but it remains even higher in prime retail corridors like West Chestnut Street (25%).

  • Several national retailers closed stores in Center City during the pandemic, including Gap, Banana Republic, Aldo and Ann Taylor.
  • Exactly 81 fewer food establishments were in the downtown area in September compared to before the pandemic.
  • About 58% of Center City workers continue to work remotely.

What they're saying: Center City District president Paul Levy said the recovery shows the district is much more resilient than people realized.

  • While several businesses closed during the pandemic, he noted that a lot of digitally native retailers moved into those vacant storefronts.
  • "With the appropriate precautions, we feel pretty optimistic about the process of recovery," Levy said.
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