RETAILERS are revamping late-night shopping as part of a bid to rescue vital festive trade when lockdown lifts.
As York prepares for life under Tier 2 restrictions from December 2, businesses owners are hoping to hear tills jingling as soon as they reopen.
For many, the weeks before Christmas make up a significant part of their annual turnover.
However, with many neighbouring areas going into Tier 3, which restricts non-essential travel, York traders will miss out on a lot of their usual custom and be more reliant on residents.
York Retail Forum members have agreed to move late-night shopping to Fridays to make it more family friendly.
Phil Pinder, who heads the forum, said: “We are encouraging shops to stay open until at least 7pm but many will be opening until 8pm and even later. That starts the first Friday we are open – December 4.”
December 5 and 6 is arguably the city’s most important retail weekend of the year, coming just after November’s pay day and with many York shops expected to have lost about a third of their annual income by the end of this month.
Late-night shopping is usually held on Thursdays, when people historically got paid, but for a tourist city, Thursday is a quiet night for hotels and businesses, said Phil.
“Friday works on a family-friendly basis because people can take their kids in to town and not worry about staying up a little bit later.”
He added: “We are trying to unify Sundays as well so that everyone opens from 11am until 5pm so we get people into town at the same time.”
Among the larger stores, M&S in York is also launching its longest-ever opening hours for its busiest days before Christmas to ensure staff and customers have the time and space to socially distance.
A spokesman said the York Vangarde M&S store would open until midnight from December 21 to 23. The city centre store will open until 10pm, and the York Designer Outlet branch until 8pm.
M&S is also inviting shoppers to book a time to avoid queuing outside.
Andrew Lowson, executive director of The York BID said Tier 2 restrictions would make trade very difficult for many. “For example, we know our city is full of cosy, characterful pubs that people love to visit in the run up to Christmas. Many of these do not serve food, so under the current rules they will not be able to trade.
“The fact York is surrounded by Tier 3 areas also means we have to be realistic about the fact that we will lose out on people coming for day trips and the spend they bring with them.
“On a more positive note, I believe local people will want to support the city.
“Data from October half term shows 68 per cent of people visiting the city centre were from York, so when retail and hospitality open again on December 2, I am sure we will see locals enjoying the Christmas atmosphere York is famous for.”
Cllr Andrew Waller, City of York Council’s executive member for economy and strategic planning, said: “York is renowned for its great festive atmosphere.
“As we all know, due to coronavirus, there have been some large changes to the city’s festive offer this year. That being said, businesses have put in a fantastic effort to ensure they meet all the Covid secure guidelines and are ready to welcome shoppers back in a safe and controlled way.
“Alongside this we have worked tirelessly to process grants to help these businesses.
“If we all follow the hands, face, space guidance now is the time to shop local especially with independent shops this Christmas and give back to the local economy that has supported us all over these past months.”
Meanwhile, customers to York’s Coppergate Centre will be able to confidently shop this year without the usual bustle of the crowd-pulling Christmas cabins.
Pippa Unwin, centre manager, said most of the stores were planning to reopen at 9am on Wednesday, December 2, to meet the pent-up demand for festive shopping.
“Our decorations are up and the square is looking fantastic, and for the first year for a long time, we don’t have the Christmas market cabins, so we are confident that shoppers can socially distance in all of our outdoor spaces.
“Our two key attractions, Jorvik Viking Centre and Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, re-open on Thursday, so even people who are just looking for an escape from the four walls of their home can enjoy socially-distanced visits.
“And of course, we have take-away food available from Spring Espresso, YO31 Wood Fired Pizza and Cattle Shed to sustain shoppers and sightseers alike, and the new Café 21 restaurant opening in Fenwick.”
Fenwick will be open from 9am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 10.30am (browsing) until 5pm on Sunday, with 8am to 5pm opening on Christmas Eve, and 9am to 6pm on Boxing day. Primark’s Coppergate store will open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 10.30am to 5pm Sunday.
Jorvik and Van Gogh are reopening on December 3, from 10am to 5pm.