Even though shoppers were out in force for the traditional Boxing Day sales, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to save some retailers after the sector lost 150,000 jobs in the past year.
Shoppers lined the streets in Wakefield city centre in the run-up to Christmas but according to retail analyst firm Springboard footfall declined by 3.1 per cent on Boxing Day. This is the third consecutive year in which it was lower than in the year before.
It said this showed Boxing Day was lessening in its importance as a trading day.
HMV, which has a store at Junction 32 in Castleford, was the latest firm to go into administration in 2018.
It followed Toys R Us, House of Fraser, Poundworld, and Crawshaws butchers.
Councils and business improvement district (BID) groups, including in Wakefield, have worked to revitalise town centres and the government allocated a total of £1.5bn in its October budget for the high street. Just before Christmas, a government-commissioned report said that a £675m pot of money to help the high street should be spent locally by councils.
Sir John Timpson, who chaired the panel of experts, recommended the creation of town centre task forces and an ‘Upside Down Government’ approach to enable community figures to design future town centres that recreate a “community hub”.
The call was backed last week by Jake Berry, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. He added councils should consider providing free parking in town centres. Mr Berry said: “We all know high streets are changing, we can’t hide from this reality. But we’re determined to ensure they continue to sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.”
Mr Berry’s said libraries, health centres and childcare centres could relocate to struggling high street in a bid to increase footfall.
Meanwhile, Wakefield Council is in talks with developers to convert the former Wakefield Crown Court into a leisure facility.