BRADFORD had its busiest week since the pandemic took hold as restrictions eased and shoppers rushed back to the city centre. 

April 12 saw shutters roll up and life take a step closer to ‘normality’ as non-essential retail, plus salons, gyms and the hospitality sector, were given the go-ahead to re-open after months of closure due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Jonny Noble, manager of the

Bradford Business Improvement District, said footfall in the city centre was more than double that of the previous week.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Top from right to left: Ian Ward; Jonny Noble and Catherine Riley Top from right to left: Ian Ward; Jonny Noble and Catherine Riley

“We recorded an increase of 106 per cent week on week, which was the highest footfall in the city centre since March last year,” he said. 

“Monday was by far the best day, although Saturday was also very busy.”

He added: “It’s very pleasing to see people coming back into Bradford again and the vast majority behaved sensibly, wore masks and followed social-distancing guidelines. Our main aim is to keep people safe and city centre businesses have made a huge effort to ensure that the Covid-19 regulations are followed and social distancing is maintained while they welcome back their customers.

The BID, just like all our levy-payers, are really pleased to see people back shopping and using services such as hairdressing salons again, as well as being able to enjoy food and drink outdoors where premises have been able to provide facilities.

“It’s great to see so many people heading out to ‘Rediscover Bradford’ – as  our latest campaign suggests – viewing it with fresh eyes and seeking out new experiences and new products and trying out places they might not have visited before.

“People will always find a warm welcome from city centre businesses and we’ll do all we can to ensure it’s a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Ian Ward, general manager at The Broadway, said last week was a “crucial step” for the retail industry across the country and that it had been a “strong first week” for the shopping centre.

He said: “The weekend’s weather certainly helped with bringing people out of their homes and we’re pleased that the vast majority of visitors to the centre have been following and supporting the protocols we have put in place.”

In February, it was confirmed Ninja Warrior had signed a lease with the centre. Work is due to begin on the units next week ahead of its planned opening in the autumn.
Based on the hit ITV programme, it will feature an assault course with a variety of obstacles such as ring sliders, carriage wheels, quad steps, spider walls, cliff hanger and end with the ultimate challenge to ‘beat the wall’. 

Luxury dessert restaurant  Haute Dolci will open in May and the interior fit out of the Estabulo Rodizio Bar & Grill, which will bring a Brazilian flavour to Bradford, is due to start in the next few weeks. Mr Ward added that The Broadway is in a dialogue with a “number of exciting brands and will update in due course”. 

Kirkgate Shopping Centre is also celebrating a successful first week back. Primark has been a particular pull for shoppers, as in many other places up and down the country. 

The fashion company announced it had seen “record” sales in England and Wales in the first week of reduced lockdown restrictions allowing stores to reopen. 

Catherine Riley, manager of the Kirkgate Shopping Centre, said: “It’s actually been an amazing week. We didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know how many people really wanted to come out and shop.”

Mrs Riley said footfall had been “extremely strong” and had stayed consistent and steady, something which had continued this week after the initial easing of restrictions, and that people had respected requests for mask wearing and social distancing. 

She added: “The best thing is, people came out and shopped. It’s just so amazing to see people out, to see people happy to be shopping again and to see our retailers happy as well. It’s been terribly difficult for retailers, we hope we’ve turned a corner and won’t see any more lockdowns. We very much hope that’s the case.”

She said it was “food for the soul” to see people use the centre and leave with bags of shopping, rather than opt for online. The next easing of restrictions is expected on May 17 and marks the day when pubs and restaurants will be able to allow people indoors to eat and drink, which will be significant date for a number of city centre venues.