SHOPPERS in Worcester could soon be able to enjoy Christmas-style late-night shopping all year round.
Speaking at a meeting of Worcester City Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, March 15, Cllr Geoff Williams said members of the authority had been considering plans to introduce year-round late-night shopping one day a week.
Many shops and cafes in the city centre stay open until 9pm on Thursdays in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but if Cllr Williams’ plans are approved this scheme will continue throughout the entire year.
Although the late-night opening will not necessarily happen on Thursday, shoppers will be able to park in city council-run car parks for free if the scheme goes ahead.
Speaking at Tuesday evening’s meeting, Cllr Williams said the idea had been the subject of a great deal of discussion between him and his colleagues on the council.
“What I want to say tonight quite clearly is we want to take this forward,” he said.
“I want to introduce free parking in city for one night a week and I want to take this forward as soon as possible.”
Council leader Cllr Adrian Gregson threw his support behind the idea, saying: “Hopefully it’s something we can take forward.”
Adrian Field, manager of Worcester Business Improvement District – a non-profit organisation working to improve conditions for businesses in the city – said he expected many people would be in favour of the project but it was difficult to tell how successful it would be.
“Traditionally shops are open from 9am until about 5.30pm,” he said. “That’s just what British retailers do.
“How much more trade would businesses do if they stayed open late or maybe even started later?”
He added it would be important a large number of businesses in the city centre got involved in the scheme in order for it to be successful.
“It’s a big project and one that a lot of business in the city would need to get behind,” he said.
“If footfall isn’t quite what they expect in the first few weeks what we don’t want is for all the businesses to drop out.
“It’s going to be a gradual build-up and hopefully it will be a snowball effect.”
But he said he was unsure that it was the right time to try out such a scheme.
“The economy isn’t quite in the right place to try this out right now,” he said.
“It might be a good idea to wait until it’s a bit better.
“I don’t think we’re going to be like Spain, opening at 10 o’clock and then every goes for a siesta – although that would be nice.”
He added incentives for people to come into the city centre such as street entertainment and free parking were an important element of making sure it was a success.
The city council plans is examining the logistics of setting up such a scheme and it is hoped a pilot can be launched as soon as possible.