New data reveals the scale of York’s lockdown losses – and prompts a ‘buy local’ rallying cry

Shoppers hit Coney Street on the eve of the last lockdown. Photograph: David Dunning
1 Dec 2020 @ 7.38 am
| Business

Anonymised phone and credit card data has revealed more information about York shoppers than ever before.

And that data shows “how important it is to spend local where possible this Christmas,” a business leader says.

For years, Andrew Lowson, executive director of the York BID (Business Improvement District), had said the city needed more detailed information about who shops in the city centre, and where they come from.

Now the BID has commissioned data from both mobile phone company O2 and Visa – all anonymous – which drills much deeper into people’s shopping habits, which will help the city plan for the future.

The figures starkly reveal York’s rollercoaster business year. The information reveals:

  • purchases made at the till  dropped a huge 84% in York city centre, from £99m to £15m between Quarter 1 (Jan – Mar) and Quarter 2 (the first lockdown);
  • at the same time, online spend rose by 245%.

But there was better news about the period following lockdown 1.

Where they come from

Executive director of York BID Andrew Lowson

In quarter 3 – July to September – spending at the till in York shops rose to £106m, which is higher than pre-Covid figures in quarter 1.

Thanks to the O2 data, we now know where people came from to shop in York.

Between July to September, 35% of the spend came from people living 0-10km from the city centre.  However, 46% of the spend was from visitors who live 50km-plus away. 

In his blog on the BID website, Andrew writes: “We have to be realistic that, until we return to some version of normality, those high spending visitors from further afield will not be coming in their pre-Covid numbers.

“The fact that York is surrounded by Tier 3 areas means that in the run up to Christmas, we’ll have none of the regular coach trips from the north east, north west or even neighbours in east and west Yorkshire. 

“Therefore, encouraging local people to support local is more important than ever.”

Encouragingly, in the week before the October half term break, 74% of visitors to the city centre were from the City of York Council area.

Andrew says: “This information underlines how important it is to spend local where possible this Christmas (and into the new year).  I could repeat endless phrases such as ‘love local’,  ‘use it or lose it’ –  ultimately people will make their own decisions. 

“But the BID and partners need to continually highlight the great offering the city has because, if we can encourage local people to stay, dwell and most importantly spend, it really could make a world of difference this Christmas.”