A MONTH into York's late-night shopping experiment, and the results are discouraging. Retailers have reported slow trade on Thursday evenings. Some city shoppers do not know stores stay open until 8pm once a week, as our random survey discovered.

This is worrying. York needs late-night shopping if it is to match both the major cosmopolitan centres of northern England and the European cities which compete for mini-break tourism.

So why is it not working? The answer is simple: York's retailers have failed to throw their full support behind the initiative.

We congratulate those traders who have backed the idea. But too many have not, preferring not to invest in extra opening hours until the more forward-thinking store managers have made it a success.

This wait-and-see approach could prove fatal to the entire exercise. Everyone needs to pull together if we are to bring about a significant change in York's cultural life.

Some will argue that people are not responding because they have all the late-night outlets they need. They can shop around the clock in the retail parks or online.

But that is to miss the point. Today shopping is a leisure and tourism activity. For many people, it is about the experience.

Unfortunately, too few people know about York's late-night shopping experience, and those who do have found it altogether lacklustre.

The major players must get together and have a rethink. They need a three-point strategy: first, persuade more retailers to come on board; next, decide how to tell locals and tourists about this great new service; then, crucially, ensure it is a night to remember.

It is all about creating a buzz. Bring on the street entertainment, the late-night discounts, the cross-promotional deals between caf, shop and pub.

If nothing is done, York late-night shopping will suffer an early demise, and a wonderful opportunity will have been lost.

Updated: 10:21 Tuesday, May 20, 2003