By Marcus Leach

City centre managers are urging high street retailers to change
their trading hours to accommodate changes in consumer lifestyles.

The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) recommends that
town centres look towards evening shopping in order to remain
competitive within the retail market.

A study of retail trading hours recently undertaken by the ATCM
showed that sales between 5pm and 8pm are typically 50% more than
those between 9am and 11am pointing towards the possibility of
retailers opening later and closing later to capture extra spend.

The study reviewed shifts in spending patterns in cities which
already consider later opening an essential element to attracting
more shoppers back to the high street. The results showed that
spend increased by an average 10-12% in major shopping destinations
across the UK where this was the case.

John Hirst, Operations Director at Destination Bristol, is
impressed with the initial results and would like to see efforts
extended across more of the retail and services sectors.

"Customer feedback is quite clear - they want the opportunity to
shop in the evening, and what we do is when the shops are busy,
half 5 or 6 o'clock, there are some staff in many stores herding
customers out the door when they want to shop," he said.

"Currently what we're doing is saying to them, "I'm sorry we don't want your money, please leave" and that can't be right. There is an evening market
which needs to be captured."

The ATCM's Key Cities group including Belfast, Bristol, Birmingham,
Kingston, Leeds, Lincoln, Liverpool and Sheffield have joined
together to demonstrate to retailers that UK cities offer
professional managed, safe clean and vibrant evening economies.

Calling the project 'UK Cities Are Alive After 5' the ATCM have
sent a DVD and brochure to 400 national retailers demonstrating
the value of the evening economy and why retailers are missing out.

Jacquie Reilly, Partnership and BIDs Director, ATCM, believes
that most stakeholders are on board with the shift and that more
participation from retailers nationwide is the final piece in the
jigsaw.

"Consumers' lifestyles have changed dramatically in recent years," she said.

"They want to shop when it is convenient to them. Often this means
when they finish work or combining a shopping trip with other
leisure experiences. Out of town centres have already utilised
their ready-made environment to take advantage of evening shopping
to increase their market share."

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