A FESTIVE retail boom has gripped Leeds – with more than 4.5million people visiting key spots in the city centre in the past three weeks alone.
Specialist cameras, which track footfall around the city, have recorded the highest numbers during the run-up to the Christmas period for three years, the YEP can exclusively reveal.
And across the whole of 2014, the cameras picked up a staggering 55 million visits – a five per cent rise year-on-year.
The news caps off a memorable year for the city centre, with highlights including the Grand Départ, which brought in thousands of visitors and boosted the Yorkshire economy by £102 million.
More recently, the “Black Friday” rush gave Trinity Leeds a 29 per cent increase in shoppers, with centre bosses revealing 101,000 people flocked to the shopping centre in just one day.
The German Christmas market, which ends this week, has also continued to attract huge crowds, with an estimated 750,000 visitors this year.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and the economy, said: “This has been an incredible year for Leeds and it’s fantastic to see that reflected in these figures. In the face of tough economic times, Leeds has consistently bucked the national trend and we’ve seen both our leisure and retail offering grow and improve so we can now confidently say the city has more to offer than ever before.
“With Trinity Leeds and the First Direct Arena already attracting huge numbers of people to the city, we also had the unforgettable crowds that flocked to the Grand Départ this year.
“Combined with other exciting events like Light Night and the German market, this has created a real buzz around the city centre throughout 2014 and I’m sure we can continue that next year.”
The footfall cameras are placed in areas including Briggate, Albion Street and The Headrow and recorded footfall of 4,557,456 from November 24 until December 14 – up three per cent on the same period last year, and eight per cent on 2012.
Kevin Duffy, general manager at Trinity Leeds, said: “It’s fantastic to see more people than ever visiting the vibrant city of Leeds, with its new shops, bars and restaurants there’s always a new place to visit.
“At Trinity Leeds we have seen footfall increase by six per cent since November, which is great news for both the city and the centre.
“With a number of new openings planned for 2015, we’re positive that by constantly evolving our offering we will continue to attract an increasing number of visitors.”
Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive officer at Leeds-based shopping and retail marketing agency Savvy, said: “The whole city has been connected back up thanks to Trinity Leeds, and the city now has some of the best shops.
“I think if we continue to invest in things like the Victoria Gate scheme and infrastructure, we will see a stellar future in Leeds.”
Nick Julian owns Primo’s Gourmet Hotdogs, which has been at the Corn Exchange in Leeds for four years, and says that he has seen a noticeable difference.
“Christmas trading has been very positive,” he said.
“The Corn Exchange and the city centre has had a real buzz about it and it seems shoppers’ faith has been restored.
“It is clear that there is a surge in out of town visitors.
“We are confident that 2015 will see continued growth in footfall.”
City centre footfall is recorded using automatic footfall cameras that are positioned across the city centre. The cameras record the number of people walking past a certain zone and figures from each camera are added together for a final total.