Scores of Sheffield shops will open late on Thursdays as city leaders try to bring the centre alive in the evenings.
Retailers on Fargate, The Moor, Devonshire Street and in between will extend their opening hours until 7pm every Thursday for the AliveAfter5 campaign, which launches next week.
The campaign, run by Sheffield Business Improvement District – Bid – aims to keep people in the city centre for longer and get rid of the ‘dead zone’ between 5pm and 8pm.
Many retailers already open until 6pm, but the Bid team want to build on this, also involving bars and restaurants to create a more vibrant early evening experience.
Among those signed up are national chains such as Marks and Spencer, Argos and Top Shop. Independents are also represented with shops such as AltSeenEye and Vulgar taking part.
Manager Diane Jarvis said: “The Bid ambition is to bring about a long-term improvement in the economy by promoting a different sort of evening experience, such as events and street animation, combined with joint promotion of a new evening ‘offer’ between retailers, restaurant operators and entertainment providers.
“Sheffield is one of the few cities in the UK that does not have a late shopping night and all the evidence suggests that cities that embrace late-night shopping benefit from increased footfall and spend.
“We have been recruiting businesses to the cause on the first steps of the journey to help develop Sheffield’s early evening experience.
“We have been talking to businesses over the past months about how we can work together to provide better value and choice for the people of Sheffield and to boost the economy too.
“We know it will take time and this is just the start – but the reaction from many businesses has been really positive. And we urge any businesses in the city centre that are not already involved, but would like to be, to get in touch.”
Late-night shopping is not an isolated project. Bid want restaurants, bars and leisure providers to collaborate and create a social atmosphere.
Diane said: “This is about us all working together to create a real city centre early evening vibrancy which we will all benefit from.
“We don’t want people to rush home straight after work – we want them to enjoy the city centre with their colleagues and friends.
“There are so many exciting things in store for Sheffield – the opening of the new Primark store on The Moor this month, the new Light Cinema next year and all the developments in the Sheffield Retail Quarter. These are all great building blocks for the future.”
Lucy King, store manager at Marks and Spencer on Fargate, said: “This is an exciting first step to encourage people back into the city centre in the early evenings to enjoy everything it has to offer – great shops, bars, restaurants and leisure activities.
“It’s really important that the city’s retailers work together for the good of the city and its continuing regeneration so I hope more and more get behind the campaign.”
Karl Hallam, owner and optometrist at CrossEyes opticians on Devonshire Street, added: “Many of our customers are students or work 9am to 5pm office hours, so for them this presents a great opportunity to come and pick their spectacles after work instead of having to come into the city on the weekend.”
And Nicole Jewitt, of AltSeenEye on Charles Street, said: “We’re looking forward to being Alive After 5 on Thursdays from the end of October.”
Bid member Adrian Bagnoli, co-owner of Cubana Tapas Bar in Leopold Square, said: “AliveAfter5 gives us the chance to create an early evening ambience and bring an additional buzz into the city centre which people will want to be part of.
“We’ve got such a highly regarded independent offering across the food and drink sector in Sheffield, and together with the addition of several quality well-known brands in recent months, we can cumulatively make Sheffield a top destination in future years.”
Follow the hashtag #sheffafter5 on twitter for the latest on the campaign.
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