YorkBID has yet to release its figures for the whole holiday period but the city’s annual St Nicholas Market proved a major draw boosting visitor numbers.
York BID records indicate that the first five weeks the event, which began in November, saw footfall at its highest in four years, up 36.9 per cent on last year and up 18.9 per cent on pre-Covid times.
This follows months of visitor numbers being above 2022 levels but still below the pre-pandemic era.
Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, said: “City footfall was very strong for York in the seven weeks to Christmas. St Nicholas’s Fair was certainly a big draw and York businesses benefitted, with many hotels, restaurants and retail reporting strong trade.
“Despite inflation still being in the back of people’s minds, I think York did better than other cities in the region as it has the right mix of retail, hospitality and experience attractions.
“This sets it apart from other places and it is exactly the kind of offer consumers are looking for during the festive period,” he added.
Phil Pinder, acting chair of the York High Street Forum, agreed Christmas trade was “good and above what people were expecting” He said: “This was against a national backdrop of falling High Street sales, York yet again outperforming the national picture.
But the director of Wizardry, The Potion’ Cauldron, added: “January looks set to be a tough start, a repeat of 2023, with poor weather looking to hamper trade and visits to the City.”
David Skaith, former chair York High Street Forum, agreed traders were reporting ‘good’ figures, helped by a better Christmas market, but the owner of clothing store Winston’s of York also warned of quieter months ahead when businesses “will really suffer” Meanwhile, the York Designer Outlet reports higher levels of sales and footfall in November and December, six per cent up on 2022, creating “our biggest ever Peak trading period at the Designer Outlet”, according to manager Paul Tyler.
The winter wonderland attracted 50,000 skaters and 3,400 children visited Santa’s Grotto “January has got off to a strong start too, with footfall being up 7.5 per cent, primarily underpinned by the fact the schools went back a week later than in previous years,” Paul added the centre was optimistic about 2024, with new brands due to arrive and the North Face and Vans doubling in size in the coming months Iconic York brands also enjoyed a happy Christmas.
Simon Henry PR and marketing manager of York Gin was ‘pleasantly surprised’ to report some record Saturdays, despite train strikes, and sales “heading towards pre-Covid levels Simon credited the sales on skilful helping customers find giftpacks, the range of gins, including new releases and the company winning many awards and plaudits in 2023.
Its Mad Alice Bloody Orange Gin, which was a limited release of 2,000 bottles, sold out in December. Simon added: “We’re feeling very positive about 2024. Our team is motivated, brilliantly trained and our range of gins keep winning amazing plaudits.”
The city’s York Roast Co said shoppers were keen to enjoy its famous Yorky Pud wrap Co-founder Stephen Chadwick said: “Footfall and spend levels were robust during this period, and one of our best years yet. It was better than expected.
York’s new retailers also did well Lucy Pittaway, who opened in Coppergate in March, said the gallery was “packed at weekends” and “too busy” at times. The gallery had also performed “better than targeted” helped by customers also visiting the markets, a spokesman explained.
The gallery was ‘looking forward’ to 2024, adding tourists are ‘loving’ Lucy’s York-related items. Upmarket clothing retailer Master Debonair says it has had an ‘incredible’ response since it opened in Lendal in July, attracting customers from across Yorkshire and the North East Sales were ‘particularly strong’ over Christmas, with an influx of wedding party bookings giving a “phenomenal start to 2024,” CEO Simon Whitaker added.