Bumper weekend for shops, bars and cafes as more than 210,000 people visit Leeds city centre
An "incredibly vibrant" atmosphere awaited visitors to Leeds city centre at the weekend as more 210,000 people enjoyed the reopening of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Footfall in Briggate reached 35,578 on Saturday, beating the 34,120 people recorded last Monday when non-essential retailers were able to welcome back customers for the first time since January and outdoor hospitality also resumed.
Leeds City Council figures shared with the Yorkshire Evening Post show footfall on the shopping street totalled 201,086 throughout the week, while a network of seven cameras recorded a total footfall of 211,829 across the city centre on Saturday and Sunday.
Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy for West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "There certainly is plenty of pent up demand if this weekend's shopping experience is any measure.
"The easing of restrictions, wonderful spring weather conditions and a strong desire by many to return back to some kind of normality will have certainly provided a boost to the city's economy."
Those visiting over the weekend will have seen rebranded Covid signs and hand sanitisers in the streets, while more than 100 city centre businesses now have outdoor seating.
Mr Goldstone said: "Firms are clearly taking a safety first approach to reopening, as recommended by government, with measures visibly in place across city centre retail destinations. It was also great to see many of our hospitality venues making use of outdoor space to trade once again.
"Leeds city centre felt incredibly vibrant once again after the most challenging 12 months for business in peacetime.”
The sentiment was shared by David Maddison, centre director at Trinity Leeds, who said shopping was "back with a bang" during what had proven to be a fantastic weekend for its retailers.
"Brands have been trading well and socially-distanced queues were seen throughout Saturday at our biggest-name retailers," he said. "Our bars and restaurants with roof terraces and outdoor seating have proved incredibly popular and were a big draw during the warm weather.
"We’ve also seen visitors making the most of our free car parking offer, which runs every weekend until May."
After Monday's bumper reopening day, footfall in Briggate had gradually dropped throughout the week and stood at 24,016 on Friday. It peaked at 35,578 on Saturday, falling to 28,677 - the third highest daily figure for the week.
Separate figures for the city centre reveal a total footfall of 104,556 on Friday, rising to 110,117 on Saturday and easing back to 101,712 on Sunday.
Coun Mary Harland, executive member for economy and culture, said: "It's been hugely encouraging to see Leeds officially back in business and watch the city centre spring into life as weeks of preparation and partnership working between our officers and local businesses finally bear fruit.
"We've all been waiting for a long time to get out and about more so we can enjoy all the city has to offer and these positive footfall figures combined with the strong sales reported by retailers should give us confidence that Leeds is heading in the right direction.
"As restrictions ease and we're getting out more, it is still vital that we continue to follow the latest guidance around social distancing, face coverings and hand washing so that we can work together to keep Leeds a safe place to live, work and visit."
Away from the city centre, the White Rose Shopping Centre in Morley also reported a successful weekend for its retailers and hospitality venues.
Centre director Steven Foster said: "The centre was busy this weekend as shoppers returned to their favourite brands, including Primark, Zara, JD Sports, and Next, rounding off a great first week following the reopening of non-essential retail.
"There was a fantastic atmosphere in the sun-drenched Village area with alfresco dining in the restaurants, on the newly-added picnic benches, and on the grassed areas in front of the open air play area, with local buskers keeping diners entertained."
He added: "We would like to thank everyone who has been following our social distancing guidelines and making it a pleasant shopping experience for all visitors."
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