With exactly four months to go until Hull throws open its doors as the UK City of Culture for 2017 there are concerns that the thousands of expected extra visitors will find parts of the city looking like they are closed for business.
Whitefriargate is one of the city centre's biggest shopping streets, yet a third of the shops are currently unoccupied. There are 45 shops in total. 30 are open for business. 15 are closed. That means for every two stores trading, one is not, something which does raise concerns for the organisation which markets the city centre where overall around 10% of premises are empty:
Many of the premises which are closed have been closed for a long time. Others have closed in the last few months including a high street bakery. One property agent which markets business premises on the streets has some concerns that landlords are not being realistic when setting rents:
A £25m regeneration of the city centre is currently underway as the city council revamps paving and public spaces with the aim of attracting not only new people to visit the shopping areas, but also new businesses to set up there. Financial help is also being made available:
One shop which has opened up in new premises on Whitefriargate in the last three months is Demon Trading which specialises in gothic, steam-punk and alternative clothing and other items. Its owner Andrew Cope says many of his customers have followed him his new outlet and he hopes to be able to expand the business further in the next few months:
As yet no more retailers have followed Andrew's lead which is why the city will pitch itself to leading national retailers at a conference in Manchester later this month. One of those who will be travelling to represent Hull at the event is the manager of the St. Stephen's Shopping Centre:
Watch James Webster's exclusive report on the empty shops in Whitefriargate: