Center City Retail Update - June 2022

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CCD/CPDC report tracks recovery of downtown restaurants and retail

Center City’s commercial core is experiencing a sustained process of recovery, with new businesses opening and existing retailers moving to new, often larger locations, according to the Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation Center City Retail Update. In the first quarter of 2022, taxable retail sales in the core of Center City reached 94% of 2019 levels and restaurant sales reached 74% of 2019 levels.

Retail occupancy and pedestrian vitality continues to rebound from 2020’s profound disruptions, supported by:

  • 202,000 downtown residents, 70,000 of whom live in the commercial core;
  • more than 100,000 college students in and around the downtown;
  • returning regional shoppers, tourists and convention attendees; and 
  • the slow but steady return of just over half of Center City’s 146,000 office workers.

“The diverse mix of downtown land-use has sustained the steady presence of pedestrians on sidewalks, day and night: residents, workers, students, visitors, shoppers, residents and hotel guests,” CCD President Paul R. Levy said. “The combined, average daily volume of pedestrians in Center City reached 346,833 by mid-June, 84% of pre-pandemic levels, and the largest volumes since 2019.”

Combining CCD’s on-street surveys, conversations with brokers and retailers, and state sales tax data, this nine-page report includes the following key findings:

  • Due to the dense mix of uses in Philadelphia’s highly diversified downtown, daily pedestrian foot traffic is at 84% of pre-pandemic levels; shopper and visitor foot traffic is at 96% while residential foot traffic exceeds 2019 levels;
  • 80% of the retail storefronts within the CCD are open for business, up from 55% in spring 2020 with 42 more retailers with announced openings for 2022;
  • With indoor seating fully restored, demand for outdoor seating remains one of the pandemic’s enduring positive legacies. There are 68% more outdoor seats in Center City than before the pandemic;
  • An emerging leasing trend appears to be entertainment concepts filling large footprint retail vacancies;
  • Several established Center City retailers have taken advantage of a softer leasing market and moved to larger or more prominent spaces;
  • Taxable retail sales for the first quarter of 2022 in core Center City are at 94% of 2019 and at 121% in extended Center City neighborhoods.

“The retail and restaurant recovery is strong throughout Greater Center City, with many of the neighborhoods adjacent to the core, that had relied on strong, three-day per week demand, now benefitting from seven-day per week demand from those staying at home,” Levy said. “As more workers and visitors return to the downtown core, the more restaurant and retail jobs will be restored.”

For more details, including a map with locations of new and upcoming business openings, download Center City Retail Update, June 2022.