Christmas shopping in Yorkshire: Trinity Leeds, Meadowhall and The Broadway on how they cope at the busiest time of year

IT seems there are two fields of thought when it comes to Christmas shopping - those who love it, and revel in the preparation, carefully choosing each and every gift, and the last minute shoppers who get it all done with military precision.

Trinity Leeds general manager, David Maddison

But whatever your style is, your Christmas pound is critical to Yorkshire retailers, and the region’s major shopping centres have spent most of the year preparing for the festive shopping season.

General manager at Trinity Leeds, David Maddison said the importance of the Christmas period to retailers could not be under-estimated,

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“Those three months - October, November and December - are critical,” he said. “Most of the brands here, especially things like jewellery, would be the first to say that this time of year props them up for the rest of the year.

Shoppers queuing for the opening of The Broadway shopping in Bradford in November. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“From pay day in September it really gets started.”

The centre saw a slight dip in numbers in November in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, which saw declines in city centres throughout the UK, but visitor numbers for the first week of December were up 2.9 per cent on last year.

Planning for the Christmas period at Trinity Leeds starts in January - and next year’s Christmas planning meeting is already booked in David’s diary for January 16.

Trinity Leeds opened in March 2013, long after the bite of the credit crunch, but with years of experience in retail, David said the way in which people shop at Christmas has certainly changed. No longer we people using Christmas as an excuse to splash the cash or stretch credit limits - shoppers are much more “considered” in their spending.

Meadowhall held a special recruit fair in September to recruitment 2,000 temporary Christmas staff

David said: “The feedback we’re getting is that people want to buy useful gifts. We are selling more gift cards than ever before - up 51 per cent on last year. It has been phenomenal.

“When you’re thinking about buying for your wife, it may seem unromantic to get a gift card, but people are saying that they want those who they are buying for to be able to get exactly what they want.

“For us, it also protects our brands post-Christmas, as people spending a £50 gift card will go and spend £75 in the sales.

“We’re coming out of austerity but people are still positively cautious about what they are buying. They want to make sure they spend well.”

Trinity Leeds, like shopping centres across the region, plan a host of events to keep shoppers entertained, such as Christmas displays, a light switch-on event, and even bringing the Opera North choir into the centre to perform.

“Christmas is the greatest time of the year for us,” David said. “What we’re trying to do is put on events that give emotion. It’s not just about driving spend.

“We want to make sure people are having a fantastic time at Trinity.”

For David and his team, they want Christmas shopping to be an experience - something you can’t get ordering your gifts online.

With the seemingly endless rise in online shopping, and Black Friday taking off online more than in store this year, he feels shops still have more to offer.

“When you shop online there’s no emotion,” he said. “It’s dull as dishwater.

“You can’t smell or touch products, or share a laugh with friends.

“When you come to a major shopping centre you can start the day with a coffee, stop for lunch, and even finish the day with a glass of wine. You can touch the jumper you want to buy, and literally smell the coffee. We want to make sure our customers have a great experience.”

At Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre, planning stepped up a gear in September, when an army of 2,000 temporary staff were recruited by retailers through a recruitment fair.

It too has a host of events to lure in shoppers. A 15,000-strong crowd attended the light switch-on in November, which saw chart topper Sigala and X Factor hopefuls Alien Uncovered perform.

A spokesperson said: “This year we also have the extra winter magic with Meadowhall on Ice, our first ever ice rink, which is proving extremely popular and drawing people from all over Yorkshire as families combine Christmas shopping with other leisure activities and make a day out of it.

“Opening hours have already been extended so people can come later in the evening for their Christmas shopping, and from Monday December 7 run from 9am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 8pm on Saturdays.”

The Broadway in Bradford saw 250,000 people through its door in the first four days after opening on November 5 - and Christmas was very much in mind from the start.

Black Friday, which fell on November 27 and saw retailers cut prices, nationally failed to impress, but the Broadway saw 100,000 shoppers over the discount weekend. It is expecting many more shoppers to take advantage of its first Christmas.

A spokesperson for The Broadway said: “Christmas is a busy but exciting time in retail and we’re really looking forward to our first festive shopping season here in Bradford.

“We have employed additional staff specifically to support the increased footfall around Black Friday and Christmas spending.”