Shopping in Bath is going to get bigger and better with many of the biggest retailers in the city coming to an agreement to extend their business opening hours to 8am-7pm. The move is designed to improve people’s shopping experience in Bath and increase trading during the quieter period of ‘early evening’. Many other cities have implemented such plans and the hope is that Bath will remain a competitive city with such a policy in place.
The decision for increased trading hours was made after a meeting co-ordinated by the Bath Business Improvement District (BID) which was attended by most of the city’s largest retailers including Boots, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Primark. The move also received support from Marks & Spencer, Jolly’s and Southgate Bath, who believe that extending retail hours will make it easier for local people to know where and when they can shop and benefit all local businesses as more shoppers stay in the city for longer.
The move has been welcomed by many people including shop bosses at larger stores in the city-centre who feel that making opening hours consistent across all retailers will enhance people’s shopping experience in Bath by giving them a greater opportunity and a better understanding of which shops will be open and when. The plan will be beneficial for many shoppers, particularly those who work until 5pm and would normally be unable to do any shopping during the week.
The major names also hope that the move will encourage local businesses to follow suit and increase their own trading hours with the BID chief executive Andrew Cooper saying, “The little guys are just as important to the retail offering as the larger stores”. However, independent stores have had mixed views on the idea, with many sceptical about whether the increase in trade will be significant enough for them to benefit by staying open later. It has also been pointed out that many major retailers in Bath already do stay open until 7pm but the quieter period between 5-7pm still remains.
The move has also been viewed as ‘SouthGate-centric’, with many of the stores involved with the change being located in Bath’s newest shopping area, away from the city centre. Many of the independent stores in the centre of town feel that they have not been engaged in the process and won’t be visited if shoppers start staying later due to their distance from the Southgate area.
Whether any independent stores decide to increase their opening hours will be decided on an owner-to-owner basis, but many will at least try the change, knowing that if the move is unsuccessful, they can always reverse the decision. The plan as a whole will encourage more people to remain around the city during the 5pm-7pm period and this should mean businesses reap the rewards of opening later as the busy period in Bath will now extend to throughout the day instead of having a ‘day’ and ‘night’ split in that Bath businesses currently see.S