Council leader urges shoppers to return to Leeds city centre following lockdown

Shoppers in Leeds are being urged to support city centre businesses amid fresh warnings about the future of high street firms and the impact of home-working on footfall.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 4:50 pm
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 4:54 pm

It comes as the council has recently launched a campaign aimed at getting shoppers back into the city centre to help revitalise the city’s economy following the Covid-19 lockdown.

A statement from council leader Coun Judith Blake claimed the city’s retailers had faced a “tough” few months, but said hundreds of shops were now Covid-secure and ready to welcome customers.

The council leader’s comments come days after a senior member of finance firm KPMG UK warned businesses were in “uncharted waters”, warning civic leaders to work on strategies to avoid the North’s city centres being “hollowed out”.

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Briggate, in Leeds City Centre.

A statement from Leeds City Council, aimed at encouraging people back into the city centre, claimed the retail offer in Leeds was extensive.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We have all faced exceptional challenges over the past months and, like many businesses, shops and shopping centres across the city are still suffering.

“The retail offer in Leeds is really special, from our spectacular Victorian Arcades and markets to our buzzing streets full of independent shops out in our neighbourhoods. The retailers that help to make Leeds great need your support now more than ever. If you are able to, I urge you to please support them, both in the city centre and in your local neighbourhood. Remember to shop safely, wearing a face covering unless you are exempt.”

Speaking last week, KPMG UK’s head of property, construction and building products for the North, Giles Taylor, claimed most businesses were likely to look to reduce office space after introducing home-working, and claimed work needed to be done to ensure this would not affect other sectors in the city centre.

He said: “Nobody wants to see our region’s town and city centres hollowed out. To ensure they remain vibrant and successful, the business community will need to work closely with civic leaders on strategies that enable a more flexible working world, without damaging Yorkshire’s retail and leisure industries.”

Many shops in Leeds city centre reopened following the Covid-19 lockdown on June 15.

Speaking later that month, Conservative councillor Neil Buckley had warned that shoppers needed a better experience if they were going to come back into the city centre and give a much needed boost to the district’s retail economy.

He told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s infrastructure scrutiny committee: “My wife and I went to have a look at town when it did reopen – and our experience was that there were queues outside places like Primark and JD Sports – there were lots of youngsters buying low costs items.

“The people who weren’t there were the middle aged with plenty of money, who bring proper turnover and profits into the centre.”

Visit Leeds recently launched Rediscover Leeds, a campaign aiming to get people back out exploring the city’s leisure, retail, culture and hospitality sectors.

For more information about rediscovering Leeds, go to www.visitleeds.co.uk/discover-leeds.