Business chiefs in Sunderland are hoping to see a rise in footfall and boosts to the economy over the Christmas period to help continue the Covid-19 recovery.
Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) representatives provided the update to the city council’s Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee this week on how the area is shaping up for the festive period.
Sharon Appleby, chief executive at the BID, which works closely with businesses and organisations across the city, said they have recently seen a rise in footfall in the city around Halloween activities.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, she said currently Sunderland is at “around 70 to 80 per cent footfall” compared to pre-Covid, and she is hoping the festive period will provide a further boost.
Ms Appleby said: “Halloween we saw an increase in terms of footfall and spend, but again it will plateau a little bit, and then it will go up again hopefully for Christmas.
“I’m not sure any of us are particularly confident we’ll get back to 2019 levels which we’re all marking ourselves on, but it’s fairly consistent across cities across the UK, especially in the North.
“What is definitely driving footfall now is not the quality of the shops, it’s definitely around the experiential stuff you can do when you get here.”
She added the festive programme is now “really starting to take shape”, with the ice rink to return to Keel Square, this year under a cover, and they are targeting 20,000 visitors, up from 12,500 in 2019.
Other activities will include fun-fair, rides and food stalls in Crowtree Road, and a Christmas panto at Sunderland Empire Theatre.
Ms Appleby added: “All of the other things going on around the Empire should help people stay for longer, which is obviously really important.”
Work has also been undertaken on how businesses want to see Sunderland move forward following the impact of Covid-19, with many wanting a “hybrid approach”.
Ms Appleby added: “They’d still like to have a nod to all the Covid things, the hand sanitisers, making sure that things are still clean and welcoming and Covid secure.
“They also want to really start driving footfall again, events and incentives and things like that are really crucial as we move forward.”
She added work has also been ongoing to ensure streets are clean and issues such as graffiti are tackled.