Why Burnley is bucking the trend of high street losses due to the Covid pandemic

Video report by Emma Sweeney

A town in Lancashire is being held up as a beacon of hope after it managed to fend off the worst financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on its high streets.

Burnley, which barely saw a drop in sales, is the least affected place in the country according to a new report into 62 of the nation's towns and cities.

The think tank Centre for Cities says Burnley’s town centre lost just 8 weeks of sales during the pandemic – making it the least affected in the country.

The same research found Manchester, Wigan, Preston and Liverpool have each lost more than half a year’s worth of high street sales.

Cosy Coffee has helped Burnley buck the trend Credit: ITV Granada

So why is Burnley bucking the trend?

One reason could be the determination to adapt and carry on for those businesses which were able to.

The town's designer charity shop Labels For Cares harnessed the power of the internet, using Facebook Lives and moving sales online.

Bosses at Cosy Coffee on St James's St decided to stay open and introduce take out.

Manager Charlotte Forrester said, "We sold food for anybody who wants to come down. It was somewhere for them to get out of the house. If they were stuck in and they had nobody with them at home, they could come down here and talk to us, see other people outside and sit outside."

Amanda Hanson from Sweet William Florists says the government's Covid-19 support was one of the main factors which enabled them to remain open.

She said, "There were a lot of people who lost a lot of people during Covid, so sadly behind the scenes we were able to help them to bury their loved ones. The government was great throughout definitely and that's why we're still here today."

The tills have continued ringing in Burnley Credit: ITV Granada

The manager of the town's main shopping centre, Chartered Walk, puts the town's success down to its local links.

Amanda Hernon said, "We are a real community centre and that has really shown throughout the pandemic. People have wanted to support Burnley."

While many other towns and cities in the north west have suffered more of a proportionate loss than Burnley, researchers say that is likely to be because of higher rents and a lack of custom from office workers.

With a recent lifting of restrictions, however, those places are likely to quickly recover.

There are fears that while government support may have protected smaller towns such as Burnley throughout the pandemic, it may have simply paused long-term decline.

Paul Swinney, Director of Policy and Research at Centre For Cities, said "The good news for a place like Burnley is that government grants seem to have sheltered it from the worst of the pandemic.

"The worry is that this might actually store pain for the future.

"It may be that we don't actually start to feel the impacts of the pandemic until we start opening up the economy again into later this year and next year.

"We might actually start to see a rise of closures once more."

Council leader Afrasiab Anwar MBE disagrees.

He said, "It's about the long term sustainability, so what we have to do is ensure that we have the relationships, have new ideas, and have a vision for what we want our town centre to be. And that's exactly what we'll be doing is working with all key partners to ensure that we get to them."