The latest footfall figures for York City centre makes grim reading. The run up to Christmas is usually the busiest time of the year for retailers. With footfall continuing to decline, hopes now rest on the Christmas market stimulating interest.
The York Council is today discussing a report which considers the progress that has been made in implementing recommendations from a review of the “economic health of the City centre”.
Eight recommendations were agreed by the responsible executive Councillor at the beginning of the year. They mostly concern relationships with trade organisations together with the promise that a long-term strategy would be consulted on. The consultation has been dubbed “MyCityCentre”. If it is anything like the Councils MyCastleGateway project, then recovery timescales will be measured in decades rather than years.
A bid to the governments “Future High Streets Fund” has already been turned down.
The only tangible change for customers was the introduction of a “York Gift Card” loyalty scheme. This was launched by the York BID last month. Unfortunately it competes with a plethora of other loyalty cards – including those run by the York Museums Trust, York Libraries and the Theatre Royal – as well as the, better established, York Pass, for the attention of visitors.
Some joined up thinking wouldn’t go amiss.
The report says that evening park and ride service times have now been made permanent.
Meanwhile the number of shops closing in the City centre is increasing. Debenhams, Bonmarche, French Connection, LK Bennett, Crabtree & Evelyn, Gap, Dorothy Perkins and Burton have, or will shortly, close. They join dozens of others including iconic York brands like Scotts, Hunter and Smallpage, House and Son, Sarah Coggles, Russell’s and Mulberry Hall; all lost during the last decade.
Against that background of collateral damage, it is surprising that the Council could only come up with eight palliatives. In fairness, though, it can do little about the biggest influence – internet shopping.
The shop closure trend is not even mentioned in the Council report.
It is ironic that some politicians are jumping on a bandwagon promoted by access difficulties for some market traders over the Christmas period. They will be unable to close their stalls. remove goods and exit the city before 5:00pm.
Their landlords, the “Make it York” QUANGO, claim that vehicles cannot safely leave the market area before 8:00pm.
Some might think, in any event, that the high footfall brought by the Christmas Market would be something to be exploited. Empty stalls are a “turn off” for customers.
Nevertheless “Make it York” has acquired a poor reputation for consultation and flexibility during its relatively short lifespan.
It would do well to find a compromise.