RETAILERS hope the last weekend of shopping before Christmas will be a bumper one as city-centre footfall dips in York.

For the first 17 days of December, a total of 658,919 people were recorded shopping in Coney Street according to City of York Council figures, compared to 733,009 last year. In Parliament Street the markets have proved popular, bringing 484,218 shoppers compared with 479,278 in December last year.

With overall footfall down by about 69,150, retailers believe this weekend’s trading will boost these figures with some reporting a very good Christmas so far, but the picture is mixed across the city.

Peter Hanson, owner of the Cat Gallery in Low Petergate, said: “I am feeling very confident about trade and how we are doing.

“Sales are strong and even better than last year. The great thing for us is that because of the timing of Christmas Day, all retailers will in essence have another strong weekend before the festivities begin, which means we are forecasting a better year than last. All the signs at the moment are very positive and trade is very good, both in the shop and through our online business.”

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of Visit York, said: “There is a mixed picture across the city with some retailers reporting very strong trade but others not doing quite as well. Certainly we know that hotel occupancy for the year to date is slightly up on the previous year by two per cent, demonstrating a strong trend for visitors to come to the city to stay for two or more nights. Overall, York is performing very well and attracting visitors from all across the UK and overseas.”

Katie Stewart, City of York Council’s head of economic development, said: “Despite what we are hearing from some retail experts that shoppers are holding out from the High Street for pre-Christmas bargains, we have had reports that trading for a number of our retailers has been strong and, in fact, footfall for Parliament Street is the highest we’ve seen for four years – great news for York’s markets and city centre retailers.”

City-centre shopper Lauren Barker, 48, of Carlton Husthwaite, said: “I have been doing all of my shopping in York city centre, but it is not nearly as busy as I would have expected.”

Outside the city centre, retailers were reporting a similarly mixed picture. Katherine Sharp, the centre manager at Monk’s Cross, said: “The build-up this year started quietly and I’m convinced that was to do with the weather because we had first floods then freezing temperatures, which kept people at home.

“But about halfway through the month, things started to pick up and the footfall year on year has started to increase. We are expecting a bumper weekend this weekend.”