Reopening of hospitality trade will boost confidence in the Leeds retail sector
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From Saturday the hospitality industry has been given the government go-ahead to re-open - and although it won't be like before, there is hopeful anticipation that it is the next step in kick-starting the recovery of the city's economy.
Andrew Cooper, chief executive of LeedsBID said: "Not everyone has opened at the same time, there has been as easing back in and we are doing reasonably well in the city in terms of footfall, but, it is not as high as we would like at this time of year - but people are trickling back in.
"But retail and the experience of hospitality - the two go hand in hand. It is important to the Leeds experience. I think we have got to think of hotels as well. They have kept doors open to support key workers and NHS staff but they are not going to operate quite the way that they do.
"I don't think anybody knows how Saturday will go but I do know that the different agencies and BIDs are resourced up to be prepared to make sure people have a safe experience, particularly around the night time economy.
There are also projects under a 'Re-opening the High Streets' fund that is enabling alteration to be made to the public realm of the city and for establishments to extend into the street scene to help with social distancing.
Mr Cooper added that, as was seen with the re-opening of high street shops and more recently the independents, the public are being cautious in deciding where and when to come into the city - but also being understanding of the tasks that shops, businesses and pubs and bars are having to undertake in order to be allowed to open and trade again.
A recent survey by LeedsBID revealed that while 90 per cent of people questioned plan to return to High Street shops, 47 per cent are nervous about shopping again. Of those surveyed 45 per cent plan to shop less than they did pre-COVID-19 and 3.5 per cent have no intention of returning to the High Street any time soon. But, 43 per cent say they will shop the same and 7.5 per cent plan to shop more.
He added: "It is a gradual thing, people are being sensible and applying common sense, following the guidelines and having patience. It is a strange environment and people are getting back into action but we have to do that in a safe and sensible way and we don't want what has happened in Leicester. It is about being sensible, taking the necessary precautions and not spoiling the opportunity that is there to enjoy the city and experience things we would normally want to. It is a gradual thing, it is a confidence thing."
That said, there is a look towards the recovery of the city centre economy and in LS1, the retail and hospitality sector accounts for 51 per cent of business. While pubs are changing the way they operate to adapt to a new normal, in order to carry on thriving, independents will have to do the same, he added.
Mr Cooper said that while the city has a strong sector of independent retailers, that are often run by one person they might need to adapt opening hours to reflect changes in shopping trends as people work from home, do split shifts and are in the city centre at different times.
He added: "We need to be more nimble as a retail community to adapt to that change. We have traditional high street and independent, and in hospitality and that makes for a strong offering. We are not a city that relies on tourism, although there is that, but it is going to be more important for Leeds to fight for local, national and regional pounds. That spend and supporting independents and high street is crucial."
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