Just last week I was in Nottingham for work, I finished work at 5.30pm and thought I would stroll through the city and do a bit of shopping before meeting friends for dinner at 7pm. However, this was not to be I quickly realised that all of the shops closed at 6pm leaving a gap between the end of the working day and the start of the night time economy.
I went online to do some research and see what else I could do, art galleries, heritage venues, library, book shops, coffee shops (except Starbucks) also all closed at 6pm leaving bars and pubs as the only open places where I could while away an hour before dinner. Nottingham has a plethora of amazing bars and pubs but it’s not what I wanted to do at 6pm. Anyway I thought that they were missing a trick (or a whole heap of money). I ended up going to the restaurant an hour early with a paper, when I would have happily spent time and money in retail shops or some other form of entertainment if it were available.
Over dinner I was talking to my friends, one is a pilot and the other a doctor. The pilot said she regularly finishes work late at night or early in the morning. She says that she’s often wide awake, hungry and certainly not ready for bed, but her only safe option was to return home and turn on Netflix or read her paper with a cup of tea and a slice of toast, another friend a doctor also piped in that she regularly worked shifts and blocks of nights she too would often finish a shift at 7pm or 7am, and would be ready for breakfast, and a bit of shopping so that she could then go home and sleep before her next shift, but found that most things either weren’t yet quite open or were just closing.
Both instances got me thinking about some of the issues that we face in the Night Time Economy. The first issue is, we only associate the Night Time Economy with drinking. Women in particular don’t feel safe in cities, alone, in bars, after dark, we (and I am sure men) would love to see a more rounded offer.
Around the world cities after dark are associated with students, 18 to 25’s and those who want to drink alcohol yet many students don’t drink. There is nothing really for those who don’t drink alcohol or don’t want to drink alcohol. This excludes large amounts of the population, many with huge disposable incomes from enjoying the city at night. By opening the city to only one group of people it creates and breeds social problems as bad behavior is somewhat permitted or acceptable because everyone is doing it. A really interesting piece of work by Drink Aware “You wouldn’t sober” (1) was aimed at sexual harassment but is equally relevant for other drunken behaviors and challenges acceptable norms that aren’t really acceptable.
The second issue we prevent mixed use of cities we are seeing a much more fluid working economy with people working later and more flexibly. Only providing drinking establishments polarizes the day and night time economy into safe and easy to manage vs problematic.
The third issue is we restrict the economy from growing. Without mixed use of the night time economy we prevent sales from happening. A report from Visit Britain detailed “Economists TBR and NTE specialists MAKE Associates estimated the value of the UK NTE at £66bn in 2009, accounting for up to 27% of town and city centre turnover and between 5-10% of most locations’ overall employment figures” However this would be worth so much more if shops, galleries, heritage venue’s, visitor attractions and public services were open.
It would also serve to mix the users up naturally creating more calm on the streets and making it seems less natural for drunken behavior. This has been noticed by the Chinese Government who recently announced that they were launching five night markets in Shanghai. Wu Xingbao, deputy director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, said during a municipal government news conference in mid-April that “up to five night markets in the city will be designated as landmarks and further developed by the end of this year”. The objective is to upgrade these venues so that they can become more appealing to an international audience and boost the city’s night-time economy (2).
Research(3) for the city of Sydney showed that the annual principal costs of managing the NTE (not all of which are negative) are hugely outweighed by the turnover of businesses at the heart of the city – $127m and $2.7bn dollars respectively. This research goes to show that the night time economy is very important to the economic growth of any city and in my opinion it still has a lot more room for growth with the right offer in place. An annual event in Liverpool called “Light Night” sees the whole city centre opened late into the evening; including museums, theatres, shops, restaurants and bars. Liverpool’s Light Night attracted 25,118 visits with an estimated economic impact of £335,000.
Philip Kolvin QC talked recently at the 10th Club Health conference about his Manifesto for the Night Time Economy(4) and his vision for how we create cities with a truly 24/7 Night Time Economy. He would love to see cities creating night time economy strategies. This is a view that I very much share. Our night time economies need careful thought and clear strategies with partnership working between all sectors at the core to help them flourish and to eliminate the enduring issues that we see today.
So what should cities be doing to encourage a more diverse night time economy
- Review their current night time economy
- Write a comprehensive and inclusive night time economy strategy
- Work in partnership with the current day and night time economy businesses to create a plan to open later and curate a better evening and night time offer.
- Ask residents what would bring them into the city after work and at night
For help delivering or developing any of these initiatives myself and the team at www.nighttimeeconomy.com can help you, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- TBR Ltd, MAKE Associates Ltd, Longview Partners & Philip Hadfield Consulting (2011), Sydney Night Time Economy: Cost Benefit Analysis