New report finds Center City retail employment is near where it was in January

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Center City District says retail employment hasn’t been as rocked as the restaurant industry, and a new report proves that.

“You have to separate restaurants from retail. Restaurants have been most severely challenged in this, along with hotels,” said Paul Levy, president of the CCD.

He knows businesses are closing and doesn’t want to minimize the pain and suffering of that, but said “the broader trend is better than what was being portrayed and that’s all we wanted to say.”

Levy said the report, titled "Retail in Center City: The Sky Is Not Falling," looks at a decline in boarded up storefronts, sustained outdoor dining and recent new business openings from June to November.

There’s even been a change in the retail environment itself, he said, with more people buying home supplies for cooking or working at home instead of buying dress clothes or going out to the theater.

Of the five new businesses highlighted in the report, one is temporarily closed and none are restaurants.

He said COVID-19 is one factor that’s not going away soon enough.

“I think there’s the economic challenge, there’s clearly some of the unrest and the protest — that was a challenge — there was anxiety over the election. And fortunately at this point, a lot of that is behind us even as we’re going through this very challenging time in the winter,” he said.

According to the report, 70% of restaurants were open in Midtown Village and Rittenhouse Square in late November.

The report also found that Center City’s retail employment numbers are nearly the same as they were in January, but restaurants and food service is still 38% below where they were at the beginning of this year.