SUPPORT shops and businesses in the centre of York - that’s the message from retailers as they feel the impact of the aftermath of both flooding and coronavirus.

Phil Pinder, chairman of York Retail Forum, said so far this year footfall is down by seven per cent in shops in York city centre.

Mr Pinder, who runs Potions Cauldron in Shambles, said that January and February are usually quiet months and this has been compounded this year by a fall in tourist numbers as well as locals not venturing in to York to shop.

He said: “Coronavirus has had an impact - 12 per cent of visitors to the city are Chinese tourists - but the flooding has been as much a problem.

“A lot of people from further afield are saying they thought we’d be under water, but obviously that’s not the case and York is open for business.

“I would say to locals to come in to town and support the city centre traders.

“The city centre employs a lot of people and makes up a huge part of the city economy.

“It’s vital we keep it going when times are tough.”

At the end of last month two guests at York’s StayCity aparthotel were the first confirmed UK cases of coronavirus and there are concerns that some would-be visitors might be deterred.

Similarly, the double whammy of flooding along the river Ouse from Storms Ciara and Dennis has seen the city often depicted by some national media as struggling to cope, despite river levels not exceeding those of either 2015 or 2000.

Currently river levels continue to drop in York city centre but a new storm called Jorge brought more heavy rain to the Dales yesterday - which in turn will cause flooding from the River Ouse in York to worsen again over the weekend.

The Environment Agency says the Ouse, which had fallen to 3.18 metres above normal summer levels at York Viking Recorder by 2pm on Friday, is expected to rise again as a result.

Meanwhile City of York Council has already begun the clear-up operation where possible and is encouraging people to visit the city centre and during next week in particular as it’s York Restaurant Week (March 2-8).

City of York Council’s executive member for economy and strategic planning, Cllr Andrew Waller, said: “Throughout the past few months, we have continuously pushed the message that we are open for business whilst encouraging people to visit the city centre.

“We continue our work with York Business Improvement District (BID), Make It York and York Retail Forum to ensure that all businesses, visitors and residents in York city centre have the best possible experience. Earlier this month, we welcomed thousands of residents and visitors into the city centre to engage in the annual Ice Trail and the Jorvik Viking Festival.

“We’re also encouraging people to visit York next week for York Restaurant Week (March 2-8), which will enable residents, workers and visitors to enjoy the city’s culinary delights at discounted prices. York remains a safe place to work, live and shop.”