press release

Downtown Residents, Visitors, Workers Drive Rising Demand For Center City Retail

JoAnn Loviglio
T 215.440.5546


Center City District’s new “Philadelphia Retail” report details demographic and economic trends  fueling more than $9 billion in development currently being invested in downtown

PHILADELPHIA (December 6, 2017) – The retail landscape in Center City continues to flourish, fueled by 188,000 downtown residents, 300,000 workers, 3.2 million occupied hotel room nights and more than 108,000 college students who together generate more than $1 billion in annual retail demand, according to a report released today by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corp.

The report also notes  that Center City’s retail momentum will continue to accelerate in 2018, perhaps most dramatically in the burgeoning East Market Street shopping district where six large mixed-use developments will add 1.1 million square feet of retail upon completion.

Residents, workers, college students and visitors help support 992 retail stores in Center City including 216 apparel stores, 160 jewelry stores, 138 food and drink retailers, and 118 home and garden establishments. Center City’s 988 food establishments include 453 full-service restaurants and 319 takeout establishments.

Philadelphia’s 24-hour downtown has the second largest residential population in the country and generates significant foot traffic on Center City’s vibrant retail streets. More than 41,000 pedestrians crossed the intersection of 16th and Chestnut Streets on Fridays in the fall.

While Center City retailers are experiencing many of the challenges that brick-and-mortar stores are facing nationwide due to online shopping, occupancy on prime retail corridors downtown remains a healthy 95.5%. By comparison, retail vacancies in Q2 2017 hit 10% nationally and 8.2% regionally.

The significant growth in Center City’s population has markedly stimulated retail demand. The number of downtown residents has increased 19% since 2000, and millennials entering their peak consumer-spending years represent 40% of this population. Empty-nesters migrating from the suburbs, and young families choosing to raise their children in the city, have also created rising retail demand.

In the core of Center City, 78% of residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree and household incomes average more than $116,000. Center City’s expanding affluent and highly educated population, along with a growth in tourism, has attracted more than 60 national retailers since 2013. These popular brands augment the strong base of local boutiques and independents that represent 76% of Center City’s tenant mix and serve shoppers from across the city and throughout the region.

Center City’s walkability and density make it attractive to workers, who comprise a dense and diverse employment base that makes downtown Philadelphia the largest central business district in the region with 41 million square feet of office space. Additionally, overnight visitors to Center City augment downtown’s residential and employee retail demand, with more than 1 million convention and trade show attendees, 5 million visitors to the historic area and a record 3.2 million occupied hotel room nights in 2016.

Limited space and strong demand from brands seeking to enter the Center City market have prompted retailers, driven by increasing residential density and new construction, to sign leases in developments coming online in the Center City East neighborhood – sparking the revival of Philadelphia’s historic department store corridor. Six major developments will add 1.1 million square feet of retail east of Broad Street, representing an investment of $815 million.

Over the past few years, as rents on the prime rental strip on West Walnut Street near Rittenhouse Square increased, both local and national retailers also began migrating to adjacent streets, transforming West Chestnut Street and connecting numbered streets along Philadelphia’s prime retail district.

To download the 24-page report, Center City Reports: Philadelphia Retail, please click here.


The Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at and on Facebook and Twitter.