Shoppers suffering from post-festive blues can add a bit of colour to their lives thanks to a new initiative unveiled in Sunderland this week.
The Bridges shopping centre is to launch late night shopping on Thursday evenings, with selected stores remaining open until 8pm from January 8, following on from the success of extended hours over the Christmas period.
And that means good news for people who can’t get into the centre before the normal closing time of 5.30pm – with the added bonus that parking at the centre will also be free from 5.30pm to 9pm on Thursdays.
Late night shopping is part of a long-term initiative being spearheaded by Sunderland’s Business Improvement District, to help boost the evening economy in the city.
As part of this scheme, the BID is planning a programme of free entertainment on Thursdays in January, giving people the opportunity to enjoy their retail therapy and then take advantage of the city centre bars and restaurants.
This will kick off with Discovery Zoo from 6pm to 8pm in the Bridges Central Square, where shoppers can mix and mingle with a whole host of creatures ranging from cuddly guinea pigs to snakes and tarantulas.
Visitors will get the opportunity to take a “selfie” with the animals, upload the picture and tag it, to be in with the chance to win one of a number of Bridges gift cards which will be given out every 30 minutes.
“The Bridges is a fantastic centre with lots of superb retailers,” said Andy Bradley,Centre Director of the Bridges.
“This is a great opportunity for more local people to shop at their leisure, particularly anyone who works in or around the city centre.
“It also means that shoppers from other areas can make an evening of it and see what the Bridges and Sunderland in general has to offer.”
Major retailers including Boots, Debenhams, Next, Primark and H &M are backing the scheme, which runs successfully in a number of other cities. Other city centre shops including Argos and Wilkos are also planning to stay open.
The move comes at a time when a number of new shops have opened in the Bridges, including the American-style Ed’s Diner and clothing brand, Roman Originals along with premium jewellery store, Swarovski.
The programme of events put together by Sunderland BID to support the late night shopping includes a magician on 15 January, followed by a unique event on 22 January where local people will be asked to share their happy memories of Sunderland.
The final event of the month will take place on January 29, with a Dirty Dancing “flash mob” event in the Market Square.
“We are on the cusp of a great new evening offer in Sunderland, with a number of new or refurbished bars and restaurants having opened in the last few months” said Ken Dunbar, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID.
“The programme of events planned for Thursdays throughout January, coupled with the Bridges late night shopping, will be another great reason to venture into the city on a Thursday evening.
“It will showcase the city centre as a great place to shop, eat and be entertained both during the day and into the night.”
Council-run city centre cark parks will also be free after 3pm on Thursdays.