Positive signs in latest Center City retail report released

Katherine Scott Image
Thursday, November 24, 2022

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With the holiday shopping season upon on, Center City District released its latest retail report showing a sustained process of recovery.

The new CCD retail report states Center City is on pace to have the second consecutive year of positive net openings.

"It's slowly started progressing, and more and more of the city started opening," said Paul Parker of Bala Cynwyd.

"A lot of stores have been open, and a lot of people have had the opportunity even to get jobs- those who couldn't even get jobs before the pandemic," said Tiana Williams of Olney.

Wawa and Starbucks closed Center City locations this year citing safety concerns

"I think that there is this widespread public perception that downtown retail is not doing well," said Prema Katari Gupta, a Vice President of Center City District.

"We surveyed every single block of retail, every storefront in Center City, and we also had a lot of conversations with both developers and retail brokers, and the story we gleaned from all of that research is something a lot more positive," said Gupta.

The report states that more than 175 new retail, restaurants and service-oriented businesses opened since 2020, with at least 47 more coming soon, replacing some of the stores that have closed.

"Whether it's a Gap or an Ann Taylor or Brooks Brothers- those are companies that are nationally downsizing their retail footprint sort of everywhere, so this isn't really about Philadelphia, and they're very quickly being replaced by these digitally native brands that frankly my teenager knows more about than I do," added Gupta.

The report states 80.5% of storefronts within the Center City District are open for business, up from 54.5% in June 2020 and approaching occupancy levels from fall 2019.

Some retailers have traded up to larger spaces.

"I think what we're seeing coming out of the pandemic is that people really crave experiences," Gupta continued.

Gupta explained that Philadelphia's growing downtown residential population has helped with foot traffic, and visitors are returning. However, she noted that the population that's lagging is office workers- still at about 50% on any given day compared to 2019.

Some wonder whether brick and mortar stores can compete with online sales.

"I think we have shifted to a world of online shopping and things like Amazon. Black Friday deals on our phone are always going to be more palatable and easy to buy than walking around town," said Kunal Shah of Rittenhouse Square.

You can find the full report here.