Business leaders voice optimism over 'encouraging' footfall figures in Leeds this weekend

Business leaders have welcomed the “hugely encouraging level of public enthusiasm” in Leeds this weekend - as early figures reportedly show nearly 150,000 people hit the city centre on Saturday alone.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 3:51 pm

The footfall was the highest seen since the start of the pandemic and came during the first weekend since indoor hospitality was allowed to reopen following the latest easing of restrictions on May 17.

The promising figures - with over 37,000 people recorded on Briggate itself on Saturday, down just 4.8 per cent on the equivalent day in 2019 - have led business leaders to voice their optimism for Leeds’ continuing recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Shoppers pictured on Briggate on Saturday. Picture: Steve Riding

Jake Morris, policy and representation executive at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Chamber welcomes the hugely encouraging level of public enthusiasm experienced across Leeds over the weekend.

“Businesses have every reason to be optimistic, as footfall was at its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

“The high level of pent up demand following through into the footfall is again very encouraging, especially as we begin to unlock and get back to regular trading.

“As we await the Government’s announcement regarding further unlocking, pending the regional Covid rate, it’s important to recognise that whilst we aren’t out of the woods yet, this weekend’s showing is certainly a milestone in our return to normality.”

His views were echoed by Andrew Cooper, chief executive of Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), the not-for-profit organisation set up to improve the city centre.

He said the hospitality sector performed well after “gearing up” to this weekend for a long time.

“Bookings were very strong, we have seen good outdoor seating areas established in the city centre and some of the middle to high-end restaurants were fully booked. It was an extremely strong weekend.”

And this provided the predicted knock-on benefits to the retail sector, he said.

“Hospitality without retail is like [TV presenters] Ant without Dec. The two go hand in hand. Both benefit each other and it also adds to the ambience of the city centre”, adding: “It’s been a terrible year and it’s great to see the hospitality sector and the retail sector coming get Leeds ticking and going again in terms of bringing people back to the city.”

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