REGULAR late-night shopping in York will work only if retailers act in unison and city leaders provide support, businesses have said.

A council-led task group is working with retailers and bus companies and has consulted the public, in a bid to make York more vibrant in the evenings.

More late-night buses, including Park&Ride services, could be provided to help make the move a success, and car parks could be opened later, a new report says.

The group will meet again next Wednesday to discuss the idea, and businesses have supported the work but called for support. [Read the council report here]

Susie Cawood, head of the York Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Chamber is very supportive of initiatives to bolster the early evening economy. As a modern, dynamic European city we think that the city centre should be open to residents and visitors in the early evening and would welcome proposals for this to happen.”

Ian Taylor, owner of the Daisy Taylor gift-shop in King’s Square, said it would work only if there were late buses, cheap or free parking and promotion by the city council, to encourage people into the city.

He said: “If there were people about then it is something we would look at it it woudl definitely be good for York. We would be happy to give it a go if the council did their side. But if all costs are being carried by businesses, then we would not do it.”

Retailers have told the council they noticed little benefit in late-night shopping before Christmas, but council officials believe that could change if enough retailers opened at the same times, to increase the appeal for shoppers.

Jason Walker, manager of Van Mildert in Blake Street, said: “We did it before Christmas for three weeks but there was very little footfall after 5pm. I can see it might work if more stores were opening as a collective mass, but not individually.”

As reported previously, the Coppergate Centre has been identified as a possible trial area, and the idea has already been discussed with Fenwicks and Top Shop. Next December or around the time of the Tour de France have been mooted as possible opportunities to try more concerted late-night shopping.

The task group says there is a lull between 5pm and 7pm, between people finishing work and returning to the centre.

Focus groups set up by City of York Council said the city centre in the evening did not offer enough alternatives for people who did not want to go to bars or restaurants.

They suggested more cafes and coffee shops should open later, and 80 per cent of people who responded to a survey said they would be more likely to visit the city-centre at night if shops were open later.

The council tried in 2007 to draw up an action plan to boost the evening economy, but the board looking into it then was disbanded before detailed plans could be drawn up.

Businesses today gave a cautious welcome to the plans but said they would need support to make them work.

The council report says as well as running later buses, bus firms could advertise late night shopping on their services.