Coronavirus restrictions have cost traders in Brighton and Hove the equivalent of more than six months of lost revenue.
The estimate appears in a new report released today (Monday, January 24) by a policy and research institute called the Center for Cities.
The loss of revenue amounted to 28 weeks of activity, with only four towns in the south east harder hit than Brighton.
Nationally, the report ranked Brighton 31st out of the 52 largest UK cities.
Store vacancy rates remained almost unchanged, with Brighton ranking seventh in the South East and nationally 49th out of 52.
The report warns: “In thriving city centres, lost sales are linked to an increase in business closures.
“Government support for covid-19 has successfully blocked the decline of many struggling high streets.
“But (it) was less effective in economically stronger places due to higher rents and a lack of goodwill from office workers.
“That said, while stronger city centers have borne the economic brunt of the pandemic, their higher levels of wealth mean that, if restrictions end and office workers return, they are likely to recover quickly.
“Meanwhile, while government support has protected weaker places, it may just have been hoarding pain for the future.
“Many less prosperous places in the southeast are facing a wave of new business closures this year.
“To avoid permanently leveling prosperous places, policymakers should run campaigns to encourage leisure visitors to return safely and provide part-time memberships to encourage workers to return to the office.
“For struggling places, the policymakers writing the white paper on leveling up should focus on solving the fundamental economic problems of struggling places to deal with the decline of high streets.
“That means investing in skills and ways to strengthen the wider local economy to put more money in shoppers’ pockets, rather than in ‘cosmetic’ quick fixes such as hanging baskets and storefronts of painting.”
Center for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: “Although the pandemic has been a difficult time for all high streets, it has leveled the most prosperous cities and towns in the southeast.
“Despite this, the strength of their wider local economies means they are well placed to recover quickly from the past two years.
“The biggest concern is in economically weaker places – mainly in the north and the Midlands – where covid-19 has actually halted their long-term decline.
“To help them avoid a wave of high street closures this year, the government needs to explain how it plans to upskill people and pay to give them the income needed to maintain a thriving high street.
“Many of these places are within the so-called ‘red wall’, so there is a political imperative for the government to act quickly, as well as an economic imperative.”