SHOPPERS can come face-to-face with some exotic visitors in Sunderland tomorrow night as part of a bid to increase city centre trade.
Late night shopping comes to Sunderland on Thursday evenings, with selected stores remaining open until 8pm, with free parking in council-run car parks from 3pm and in The Bridges from 5.30pm.
It is part of Sunderland Business Improvement District (Bid)’s drive to boost the city’s evening economy.
As part of the scheme, the Bid is holding a programme of free entertainment on Thursday evenings throughout January, kicking off this week with a Discovery Zoo exhibition from 6pm to 8pm in The Bridges Central Square, where shoppers can meet a host of creatures including cuddly guinea pigs, 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 centre boss Andy Bradley.
“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 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 programme of Thursday events put together by the Bid includes a magician on January 15, followed by an event on January 22 in which 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” performance 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 Bid chief executive Ken Dunbar.
“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.”