York’s hospitality and retail sectors attend first industry forum

Key representatives from York’s retail and hospitality sectors gathered at City of York Council’s West Offices headquarters on Wednesday 7 February for a special industry forum.

Attendees welcomed James Sawley, HSBC Corporate Banking’s head of retail and hospitality, who delivered a keynote speech on the challenges and opportunities facing these sectors in the months and years ahead.

James’ presentation guided business leaders through an in-depth look at the  brands and market shares which have grown and contracted over the past two years, and shared his predictions for high street businesses over the next 12 months.

In particular, James highlighted that successful retail businesses in the coming year are likely to be those who start to incorporate AI into their operations, offer flexible payment methods and invest in their store environments, as well as those with clear fundamental mission.

Pointing to the strengths of York’s independent business community, James identified independent businesses with a focus on customer experience as one of the most promising areas of the nation’s retail economy.

The event also featured presentations from The Retail Institute and York College, who discussed the skills and intelligence support schemes they offer for retail and hospitality businesses in our region.

Olga Munroe, Director of the Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett University, spoke about how the retail and hospitality sectors can benefit from academic research into changing social, political and environmental factors. This approach can help businesses understand the bigger picture of the complex factors influencing their operations, and help them create an evidence-based plan for the future.

York College also shared insights into workforce and skills, presenting the wide variety of qualifications they offer to help businesses understand how a diverse workforce equipped with in-demand skills

They also spoke about the close relationship the College has with the city’s business community, working together to understand the type of education and skills that are most needed by these sectors.

Cllr Pete Kilbane, Executive Member for Transport and Economy at City of York Council, thanked all those who attended, saying:

“I’d like to thank HSBC, businesses, and all our partners for joining us for this fascinating and impactful event.

“We’re immensely proud of our wonderful hospitality and retail sectors, who help make York such an exciting place to live, work and visit. We committed in our council plan to strengthening York’s economy through supporting businesses to grow and thrive, and this event was a great example of how we can achieve this through working closely with partners.

“Our City Development team is always here to support our city’s retail and hospitality business as they meet the challenges of the months and years ahead, and I’d encourage any business looking for support to start a conversation with our specialist advisors by emailing”

James Sawley, Head of Retail and Leisure at HSBC Corporate Banking, said:

“It was great to meet with retail and hospitality operators in York and share my experiences as a major lender to this important sector to the UK economy and the thousands of communities it serves.”

Olga Munroe, Director of the Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett University, said:

“This inspiring event in the heart of York brought together key city stakeholders to provide insights into the retail and hospitality landscape. The Retail Institute is keen to work with key city stakeholders to support their efforts in shaping future long-term prosperity for the retail sector.

“Thank you to City of York Council’s Business Growth Managers for their vision and proactiveness in shaping the future strategy of their beautiful city.”