A RETAIL strategy has been launched for York amid a current situation deemed to be “probably the greatest challenge to overcome” by the city’s traders.

York Retail Forum has launched its retail strategy in a bid to overturn what it describes as the “failing” shopping scene in the city centre.

Initiatives within the strategy focus on five keys areas of action, created to mitigate current challenges faced by retailers, which include “the huge expansion of out of town retail”, “parking charges higher than central London”, “premium retail units being converted into restaurants”, and “a rise in stag and hen parties making weekend shopping unpleasant for families”.

The forum believes York is in a great position to turn things around, with the strategy forming the starting point in making the city the number one destination for retail in the North of England.

Phil Pinder, the newly appointed chairman of York Retail Forum, said: “York City Centre has seen a large number of changes over the years and has survived many obstacles put in the way.

“From the closure of Lendal Bridge to the expansion of retail units on the outskirts of York, none have helped retail within the City Centre. The current situation in York is probably the greatest challenge to overcome.

“It would probably be fair to say that Retail in York city centre is failing, as large shops become vacant they are far too often being converted into restaurants or licensed premises.

“To York’s advantage we are in a great position to turn things around.

“Retailers are the largest business group paying into York BID, one of the larger BID’s that exists in the UK with an annual pot of around £900,000.

“York is home to hundreds of thriving independent retailers, many of whom have strong online and customer bases.

“We can use these as a starting point to make York the number one destination for retail in the North of England.”

The first main initiative within the strategy addresses car parking problems in the city.

It states: “York needs parking incentives to encourage residents to shop in the city more often. We need to target car parking to local residents who live within the outer ring road. The idea of nipping into York to get one or two items is off putting due to high parking charges that operate 24/7, not even central London operates parking charges on this basis.”

The strategy outlines a bid to introduce free on-street parking to encourage an early evening economy, alongside working with York BID to convert more council owned car parks to pay on exit.

The retail strategy also focuses on supporting start-up traders and encouraging growth. Initiatives include using the recently relaunched Shambles Market to proper new retail business and offer a stepping stone for those looking to move into high street retail.

The retail forum also seeks to create an “incubation space” for new businesses.

The strategy states: “We will look to incubate new retail business with a range of policies. The UK is a world leader in retail and e-commerce. York should be looking to capitalise on this creativity.

“The creation of a business incubator zone, to allow young business to develop would benefit the whole economy. We should look to emulate such ventures as Wren’s in Ripon – a department store solely for small independents.”

The strategy states York needs to embrace “pop-up” retailing and suggests a dedicated partner could manage empty units and under-utilised spaces to allow new business to trial retailing within the city.

It adds: “Working with partners, we will create an opportunity for aspiring retailers to gather crowdfunding, business support and available grants. The York Retail Forum will look to hold a Dragon’s Den style event that allows local residents to award funding to the retailer with the best business plans.”

The strategy also outlines the needs for better public toilets, and preventing vehicular access to a number of the city’s narrow streets to address safety concerns.

It is urging City of York Council not to licence any more restaurants and bars in former retail units, and is calling for later operating times for the city’s Park & Ride facilities in a bid to support an early evening economy.