RETAILERS are joining forces with bar, restaurant and hotel operators in York to be a louder voice in the city.
The York Retail Forum became the York High Street Forum to represent a wider range of inner city businesses, with a mission to fill vacancies and create a more inclusive environment.
David Skaith, chairman, said the name change was in response to the changing face of the high street, with hospitality and family events taking on increasing importance.
“We want to represent the city as a whole,” David said.
Noting that the York BID and Indie York look after the interests of their member companies and that the Hospitality Association York represents hotels, he said a “more joint approach” was needed for the city as a whole.
“There is no one who defends small and large restaurants,” added Phil Pinder, vice-president of the forum.
“We don’t just specialize in retail. We are pretty much the entire main street. We’ve always had McDonalds and Bettys on the forum. We now throw down the gauntlet and say “join us”.
“We are a free organization. There are no cost implications.”
David said there needs to be more focus on finding companies to fill empty properties, noting that Feasegate was a concern.
The forum hopes to work with city partners towards this goal, researching what retailers want and working to attract newcomers.
He said national brands are moving towards flagship stores in certain destinations rather than dozens of smaller stores.
“York High Street Forum wants to bring these businesses here,” he said, adding that all retailers, businesses, bars, restaurants and hotels in the city have a vested interest in seeing vacant units occupied to help York thrive.
Coffee chains are also “classic examples” of businesses moving from several outlets in a city to one that is bigger, better, easier and cheaper to run, with fewer staff, he added. .
In January, the Center for Cities report showed York had the fourth-lowest share of vacant store units nationwide after June 2021 with an 11.4% vacancy rate, compared to cities. like Sunderland with 28%.
David said York’s problem, however, was large empty properties, such as the former Debenhams store.
These were difficult to complete, largely due to the substantial cost and long-term commitment required, with areas underutilized.
Many also belong to distant owners, such as pension funds, which are difficult to contact.
“If an owner is not in the city, they are not incentivized or engaged with the city.”
Some landlords may also receive money when a struggling business has closed before the lease expires rather than continuing to pay staff and stock, again reducing any incentive to find new tenants. .
Larger properties could be split into smaller units, like Spark York, with more people sharing the costs, David said.
Spark York has created opportunities for start-ups to have a downtown base while they establish themselves.
The ground floor could be a food hall with retail spaces, offices on the first floor and apartments above, he added.