Footfall up, businesses buoyant – York enjoys cracker of a Christmas

Looking through the Christmas tree in St Helen's Square in York to Carluccio's window. Photographs:
21 Dec 2017 @ 11.55 am
| Business, Shopping

York is giving Christmas its all this year – and the results look very encouraging.

New stats show the city is drawing in the crowds and market traders have reported business is buoyant.

Between November 27 and December 3, footfall figures for four of the city’s key streets increased by 7.7% year on year, and by 9.2% between December 4 and 10.

It follow a greatly-increased investment in York’s winter lights by the York BID and Make It York, an improved St Nicholas Fair, and 25,000 visitors coming in by coach following an improved booking system.

Pulled out all the stops

Christmas shoppers in St Helen’s Square

“York has pulled out all the stops for Christmas this year – a great collective effort from businesses and city partners,” said Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID.

“Google has just announced the UK has the highest search interest in Christmas in the world, so the fact York does it so well is testament to why so many visit.”

St Nicholas Fair, the Shambles Food Court and the Yuletide Village – moved into the market from the Guildhall – have all done well, said Steve Brown, MD of organisers Make It York.

“Crucially other retailers across the city are also reporting a strong festive season and businesses are telling us that footfall coming into the St Nicholas Fair is impacting on them positively.”

‘A step change’

Flocking to the fair…

City centre and markets manager Chris Price said he was proud of his team who had created “a step-change in the quality of the St Nicholas Fair and whole Christmas experience”.

“York Christmas Festival 2017 includes a lot more than the St Nicholas Fair,” he added.

“York Minster, the National Railway Museum, Castle Howard, York’s Chocolate Story, York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum and York Designer Outlet have all put on their own special events and exhibitions to entice visitors here for the festive season – as well as so many other York businesses.”

Some free festive entertainment

Head of Visit York Sally Greenaway is confident of an excellent year ahead. She said:

Given the unprecedented programme of events and festivals, 2018 is without doubt going to be a strong year for tourism in York.

With so many new events and festivals to draw in new and repeat visitors, we’ll be launching a brand new tourism marketing campaign in the New Year, as well as a new tourism website.

The campaign will focus on what makes York so special and unique and more details will be announced shortly.

‘Mood of optimism’

The city looks lovely this year

We asked Make It York MD Steve Brown about the York Christmas Festival 2017.

What do you think are the main reasons for the increased footfall?
We’ve worked really hard to improve the quality of the St Nicholas Fair – making sure it is a true shoppers’ experience – it has become so popular that we had a waiting list of traders who want to be part of it.

The message is getting out there that York’s St Nicholas Fair is different and special.

Three years ago we made the decision to run the York St Nicholas Fair for 37 days – rather than the traditional one weekend in November. This has been a phenomenal success – popular with both traders and customers who can choose to visit when convenient to them.

We’re delighted this has really taken off now and we’re seeing couples and families making a special trip into York in the evenings to enjoy the fair.

What indicators do you use to measure success?
Footfall figures are a good guide though we do add them into our mix of other indicators.

Anecdotal feedback from retailers, visitors and other businesses is very important too, as well as hotel occupancy.

The general mood is one of optimism for York. Visitors are telling us they have specifically chosen to do their Christmas shopping in York and that’s got to be a good sign.

The very popular Ice Trail
What about the events?
One of the keys to the success of the fair is that we have done our utmost to encourage visitors to explore the whole city.

Two years ago we also introduced the York Ice Trail and Living Advent calendar – both of these were designed to encourage people to explore as much of the city as possible.

The York Ice Trail is now Britain’s biggest outdoor ice trail – quite an achievement in just two years as this is completely funded by the businesses Make It York works with – and sponsored by TalkTalk.

One photo on the American online news channel Reddit attracted 500,000 likes.

Has working with others made a difference this year?
Absolutely. This year we worked with the York BID for the first time in a joint initiative to share the costs of York Christmas lights and to deliver a much improved lights display.

What I’m most pleased about are the collaborations and partnerships which have resulted such as a quality Christmas fair, Christmas lights, the city wide Living Advent Calendar and the UK’s biggest ice trail.

It has been a really joined up effort across York and this now seems to be paying dividends.