THERE was a mixed picture from city- centre shops on Christmas Eve as some reported brisk business while others reported a quiet lead-up.
Footfall in December is understood to have been down overall on last year with retailers relying on last-minute sales.
Frank Wood, chairman of York Retail Forum and deputy chair of City Team York, who also owns Braithwaite Jewellers in Goodramgate, said it had been an unpredictable year once again because of the weather.
“Thursday was a washout and the late night shopping was even worse,” he said, but the weekend got busier and the morning of Christmas Eve was very busy. But he said it was too early to tell how it compared to last year.
He said: “Some people do have to go out shopping in the heavy rain, but it does dampen spirits and makes people more miserable.
“Christmas is always a busy time of year and always will be, but the weather has always been a factor. We were frozen solid a couple of years ago and that was even worse.”
Darren Lovatt, the manager of the markets, said they had not been as busy as usual. However, he said he was aware that some larger shops and department stores had been doing very well.
He said: “The markets have not been as busy as usual but Saturday was really busy, according to one or two. The Christmas fair was the best one yet according to traders. It’s the second time we have done the festive fair but they are saying it’s a massive improvement on previous years.”
But Adam Sinclair, chairman of York Business Forum and owner of Mulberry Hall on Stonegate, said: “I’m hearing it’s the most difficult Christmas in our lifetimes. I think there’s a profound consumer recession and people’s disposable incomes have been eroded for many reasons and their job security is at an all time low.
“An awful lot of high street business is still moving onto the internet and all city and town centres are under pressure in terms of relevance and being able to compete with the internet and out of town shopping.
“We could blame the weather every year but it doesn’t get to the core of the issue. It’s not just about the numbers, it’s the spend. People can be here without spending any money. That’s York’s challenge through the year. It’s all very well having people here are, but are they actually spending money? It’s spending that sustains businesses and jobs.”
He said some retailers had started discounted items heavily before Christmas to encourage more sales but that it was likely national retailers reporting results over the Christmas period would announce store closures, redundancies and administrations across the country. He said Christmas was such an important time for retailers, it would be “almost impossible” to make up for a poor Christmas during the year.
Last week, The Press reported disappointing footfall figures in the city centre. A total of 658,919 people were recorded shopping in Coney Street in the first 17 days of December 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.
Nationally, it was reported that traditional Boxing Day sales were brought forward to Christmas Eve as dozens of retailers seek to outdo each other.