Huge boost for Plymouth businesses as visitors to City Centre surge by 20%


Thousands of shoppers are returning to Plymouth City Centre in a boost for businesses as latest figures show a 20 per cent surge in footfall over the past year.

The heartening figures will come as a huge relief and cause for celebration for traders who have survived some of the toughest economic conditions in living memory.

A combination of family-friendly events, improvements to public spaces and increased confidence from investors has been hailed as significant reasons for the revival that’s sparked droves of visitors and shoppers.

New data suggests that footfall to Plymouth City Centre is up 20 per cent year to date, compared with a South West average of -2.4% and a UK average of -1%.

The new figures come to light as the City Centre experiences a mixture of investment, improvements and new openings including:

  • Newly improved public spaces in Civic Square and New George Street, with the latter now nearing completion following a £17m investment.
  • More improvements are on the way at Armada Way, The Civic, Guildhall and Debenhams, greatly enhancing the experience for shoppers and visitors.
  • New brands attracted to Drake Circus including Mango, Oliver Bonas, Rituals and Quiz, and Franco Manca at The Barcode, thanks to investors recognising the signs of a major revival.
  • Independent openings include the Koda cocktail bar, and tapas bar Olive and Twist, both on Old Town Street where significant improvements to the public space are due for completion in October. This will create a fully pedestrianised streetscape with new paving, lighting, seating and garden landscaping, creating the potential for a café quarter with outdoor seating.
  • Businesses are also opening up and expanding in the independent quarter in the West End in the streets around Plymouth Market, including In Seoul, a Korean restaurant which is the owners’ third restaurant opening in the area
  • Retro Arcade gaming lounge Continue Arcades opening on Royal Parade as the City Centre’s leisure options expand.
  • Other plans include finding new uses for empty buildings and creating more homes in the city centre. In fact, vacancy rates in Plymouth City Centre have fallen in the last two years from a high of almost 20 per cent to just 12.5 per cent, which is now in line with the national average.

Steve Hughes, chief executive of the Plymouth City Centre Company, which runs the city centre’s Business Improvement District, said: “The turn-around in the last year has been remarkable and we are now beginning to see the results of strong leadership and partnership working in changing our high street for the future and for the benefit of everyone.

“The city centre was tired and run-down and almost entirely focused on retail. We recognised a long time ago that things needed to change in line with the changing nature of the high street and people’s lifestyles.

The City Council deserves huge credit for kick-starting the regeneration with its decision to build The Box Plymouth, which is attracting almost 300,000 visitors a year.

“Since then we have had Covid and the war in Ukraine, but there are real signs now that Plymouth is on the up with confidence and customers returning and a huge programme of investment on the way.”


The recent success of Flavour Fest provided a huge boost for businesses in the city centre. A staple of the city’s summer events programme since its inception in 2004, Flavour Fest attracts thousands of visitors each year eager to sample the extensive menu of food and drink from across the South West.

A packed programme was put in place to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the South West’s largest free culinary event, including the creation of an entertainment zone on the newly revamped Civic Square, in partnership with The Treasury.

Partly funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Flavour Fest 2024 once again featured the chefs’ demo stage, run by award-winning chef Peter Gorton, while a host of DJs and bands played live music for the crowds long into the evenings.

This increase in activity led to visitor numbers increasing by 41.7% on the same week last year compared with a South West average of -3% and UK average of -0.7%.


Sofie Taylor, co-owner of Kawaffle – renowned for its sweet and savoury bubble waffles which it sells from a stall in Plymouth Market – said: “We love Flavour Fest. It’s great to be able to showcase our waffles to a much larger audience.

“We always get new customers finding us in the market after the event. They become new regulars, so Flavour Fest is a perfect way of increasing sales long term. This was our third Flavour Fest which is now an essential feature in our year.”

James Clark, store manager at Marks & Spencer in the city centre, added: “It was great to have Flavour Fest welcoming so many locals and visitors alike to Plymouth.

“The additional footfall was of real benefit to the business community in the city centre and we were able to showcase the great leisure offer to visitors, too.”

Pictures by One Plymouth

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