2019 Fall Retail Storefront Photography by Matt Stanley

press release

Center City Retail: Local & National Brands Lead Recovery

JoAnn Loviglio
T 215.440.5546


New CCD/CPDC Report Examines the Ongoing Retail Rebound

PHILADELPHIA (November 23, 2021) – Center City’s retailers, restaurants and street-level service business are rebounding from the pandemic, supported by the third-largest downtown residential population in the U.S. and by returning volumes of city and regional shoppers, college students, tourists and convention attendees and a steadily rising number of office workers.

A new Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CCD/CPDC) report, Center City Philadelphia Retail, documents the sustained process of recovery throughout 2021 as vaccination rates have climbed, pedestrian volumes have been restored and business that rely on face-to-face customer interaction are rebounding from the global disruptions from 2020.  

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Center City’s growing residential population, the third largest in the U.S., has provided a stable and loyal customer base for retail and restaurants when the usual numbers of office workers and visitors were reduced.
  • While the pandemic significantly impacted downtown businesses, retail and restaurant demand in 2021 is estimated at $1.1 billion in core Center City and over $2 billion in Greater Center City.
  • Millennials and Gen Z customers are the largest age cohorts living in Center City. Their numbers are augmented by 13 higher education institutions within the downtown and by a large cohort of empty-nesters.
  • From March 2020 to fall 2021, 67 retailers and restaurants opened in Center City, including 24 national brands. At least 34 more will be opening by spring 2022.

“Since Labor Day, downtown office workers have been steadily returning, albeit slower than expected due to the Delta variant and the disruption to childcare and school schedules. While it is too soon to predict how many office workers will ultimately return, Center City has rebounded from multiple challenges in the last half-century: the loss of population to the suburbs in the 1970s and 1980s; a municipal fiscal crisis at the beginning of the 1990s that created concerns about cleanliness and safety and prompted the creation of the Center City District; and two economic downturns since the turn of the century. Each time, downtown leaders have found ways to capitalize on the city's core assets and add new amenities, attractions and employment alternatives, while reinforcing and upgrading our transportation systems,” CCD President Paul R. Levy said.

The full 28-page report, which includes an in-depth analysis of trends along with detailed charts and graphs tracking the current recovery, is available at link.

To aid Center City businesses in the continuing recovery, CCD is working in a variety of ways with retailers and restaurants throughout the District to promote downtown shopping this holiday season and create a festive atmosphere for visitors, shoppers, residents and workers.

On West Walnut Street, thanks to the generosity of donors to the Center City District Foundation, seven Center City property owners and one retail brokerage firm, 81 large planters are now lining the sidewalks on both sides of Walnut Street from Broad to 18th Street. These large containers have been planted with seasonal evergreens and ivy varieties, along with colorful and winter-hardy flowering plants and decorated for the holidays by landscape designer Hoffman Design Group. CCD is grateful for the support of sponsors Allan Domb Realty, JLL Retail, Midwood Investments, MPN Realty, Lubert-Adler, JLL, EQT/Exeter, Pearl Properties, and Asana Partners.

Strolling entertainers including musical groups and Christmas carolers will add to the festive mood on West Walnut Street, from 15th to 18th streets, on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., November 27 through December 18.

Along Market Street East, CCD is partnering with retailers to present “Merry on Market,” a new event celebrating the many holiday traditions on the historic shopping street. On Thursdays in December,  residents, workers and visitors can enjoy live outdoor entertainment from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on East Market as they shop and dine at participating businesses, including Macy’s Center City, home to Dickens Village and the Grand Court Holiday Light Show; Reading Terminal Market, with music, Santa sightings and food demonstrations; Fashion District Philadelphia’s light show and live music; holiday lights and a brass quintet at the Lits Building, and an animated 35-foot tree on Chestnut Walk in the East Market development.

In retail corridors throughout the District, CCD Community Service Representatives (CSRs) will hand out free “Shop Center City” totes alongside festive musical performances. CSRs will be distributing the shopping bags on the following days and times:

  • Dilworth Park: 11 a.m. Friday, November 26
  • 18th and Walnut: 2 p.m. Saturday, November 27
  • 13th and Sansom: 2 p.m. Saturday, November 27, with a gospel choir performance from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 9th and Market: 4 p.m. Saturday, December 4, with a Mummers musical performance from 2:45 p,m. to 4:45 p.m., and before the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Parade begins at 5 p.m.

Find more information and full schedules for these programs at link.


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 www.centercityphila.org and on Facebook and Twitter.