Hundreds of millions spent in Bristol as people return to shops, pubs and clubs

Hundreds of millions of pounds were spent in Bristol city centre shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels in the first half of the year, new data has revealed. The money – a cool £274m – has helped boost the city’s economy following the pandemic.

The research was carried out by three of Bristol’s business improvement districts (BIDs) – Bristol City Centre, Redcliffe and Temple, and Broadmead – which said the cash was spent across businesses in the BS1, BS2 and BS8 areas in the six months to June 30.

There was £131.1m spent in central Bristol in the first quarter of the year, rising nine per cent to £142.7m in the second – an increase of 16 per cent compared to the same trading period in 2021. The Visa spend data was sourced from companies such as Virgin Media O2 and Visa, with the analysis used by the BIDs to understand how people are choosing to shop, eat, drink and experience the city this year.

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People spent the most money at restaurants, pubs and clubs (£76m), followed by on clothing (£46m) and at supermarkets (£40m). There was also £25m spent on the high street and £15m spent on hotels and accommodation.

Businesses also benefitted from online sales of £161m over the first quarter, the research found, followed by a further £146m in the second. However, there was a decrease of 10 per cent between the two quarters, showing a shift towards more people shopping in store rather than online.

A menu tasting at Gambas Tapas Bar in Wapping Wharf, Bristol
A menu tasting at Gambas Tapas Bar in Wapping Wharf, Bristol
(Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

The night-time economy sector – businesses operating between 6pm and 6am – also saw a significant boost across the first half of 2022, with a total spend of £39.5m. The BIDs said a “key driver” for the increase was the return of Bristol Light Festival, which brought an extra £3.4m of revenue to city centre businesses and 170,000 visitors to the event across its duration.

The return of international visitors also had a “huge impact” on Bristol’s economy and recovery, the BIDs said. A total of £53.4m was spent across the first six months of the year, with visitors from the US accounting for the highest international spend in the city.

Steve Bluff, head of Redcliffe and Temple BID, said despite the increase in spend in central Bristol, there was “still more” work to be done. He pointed out the amount of money spent in Bristol in the second quarter of 2022 was still £50m less than in the same quarter in 2019.

He said: “If the city is to fully rebound and return to the levels seen before the pandemic then businesses need continued support through local, international, and online spend.”

Vicky Lee, head of Bristol City Centre BID, said the data showed Bristol was “heading in the right direction”. She added: “Whilst it is likely consumer’s disposable income may have reduced, the importance of smaller ‘pick me up’ purchases and experiences such as shopping, meals out with friends and family and a night out in the city, are still being high on people’s agenda.”

Last month, Bristol City Centre BID unveiled detailed plans to spend millions improve safety and boost tourism in central Bristol over the next five years. The BID first outlined its proposals earlier in July – ahead of a ballot later this year to decide whether to extend its term to 2027.

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