A fresh bid to breathe new life in Sheffield city centre after hours has been welcomed by business bosses and shoppers.
Alive After Five is a campaign aimed at retaining visitors in shops, bars and restaurants between 5pm and 7pm - a time when footfall drops sharply and the centre is ‘dead.’
Chiefs at Sheffield city centre’s Business Development District are leading the project and hope it will have a ‘transformational’ effect on the city centre’s fortunes.
It comes days after council chiefs promised visible progress would be made on the long-awaited Sheffield Retail Quarter this summer.
And a key aim of the ongoing development of The Moor - with new shops, restaurants and a cinema - is to keep people in the centre for longer.
Laura Barker, aged 38, of Hillsborough, is deputy manager at independent gift shop Bird’s Yard on Chapel Walk.
She said: “I think a lot of people see that many shops close about 5pm and think there’s nothing going on so they go home.
“One way to keep people in the city centre is if everyone had extended open hours. “If we all started doing this again at least one evening a week then I’m sure businesses would benefit.”
The aim of Alive After Five is to convince more of the 35,000 to 40,000 people who commute into Sheffield every day to stay after work instead of going home.
Gemma Goodison, supervisor at independent coffee bar Brew and Bean on Cumberland Street, said the venue had hosted special events such as wine tasting in an attempt to get more people in later on and was looking at other ideas such as speed dating.
She added: “Trade definitely drops off in early evening.
“I would support the initiative and I think if other places extended opening hours and had special events on this would increase footfall.”
Plans are now being drawn up to bring the scheme to life and it will launch in the autumn.
A similar scheme has been tried in the past with little success, as have longer opening hours at stores and the Moor Market.
But Diane Jarvis, chairman of the BID which is funded by businesses, said the project could be its lasting legacy.
She added: “It’s about longevity. Its putting in place activity that is going to last until 2020 and measuring that economically and learning as we go.
“But we need to go big and stay big.”
More events and offers, perhaps sent to shoppers through a mobile phone app, are some of the obvious early suggestions for the scheme. Shoppers in the city centre also said that action was urgently needed.
Barman Dominic Carter, aged 25, said: “The bottom of the town is dead come half past five.”
And retired Ann Wilson, aged 65, said: “The shops and restaurants at Meadowhall stay open till late.
“I’d like to see the same thing in the town centre.”
College student Jade Dunn, aged 18, added: “We sometimes come to town after college and by that time everything is shutting.
“Especially considering it is sunny until nine, the shops must be losing out on lots of business.”