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Bournemouth leads coastal towns’ retail recovery

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Coastal towns across the UK are seeing higher footfall levels than in previous years, according to new data published today.

Automated footfall monitoring service Springboard’s latest High Street Index shows that the number of people who headed to the high streets of British coastal communities increased by 2.6 per cent year-on-year in May, with Bournemouth a star performer.

The Dorset town saw shopper numbers increase by almost 40 per cent compared to the same month one year before, with visitors no doubt attracted to the area by the prlonged period of hot weather and leisure facilities provided by the town.

It comes after Springboard’s index revealed that fellow southern coastal town Worthing was one of the best performing regions in terms of shopper footfall in March.

Springboard, which measures the popularity of the UK’s high streets, retail parks and shopping centres in more than 85 towns and cities, also said that overall footfall figures are showing signs of improvement after years of decline,which has arguably been caused by the rapid rise of internet shopping.

In May overall footfall in the UK was down 1.5 per cent year-on-year, in comparison to the 3.2 per cent annual decline in May 2010 and 4.3 per cent fall in May 2009.

Diane Wehrle, Research Director at Springboard, said: “Coastal towns are truly weathering the storm in the UK, having been some of the worst affected high streets during the recession, with a decline of 8.4 per cent during 2009 as a whole.

“Since then, there has been an upswing in footfall, as heavy investment in redevelopment of leisure and retail attracts a mixture of residents and tourists to towns and cities such as Cardiff and Belfast.”

She added that although the south-west of England and parts of Scotland are now experiencing greater shopper numbers than in recent years, regional towns and cities are really struggling to keep up, with Wales and the east of England seeing footfall drop 11.3 and 9.4 per cent respectively in May.

“High streets in areas with a high proportion of public sector employment are suffering, as there is a huge lack of consumer confidence,” Wehrle explained.

Springboard’s National High Street Index is published in collaboration with the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), and Bournemouth’s ATCM representative said that a high percentage of visitors to the Dorset town do spend money at retailers.

“Bournemouth benefited from the good weather, half term and the two bank holidays in May,” the spokesperson remarked.

“What we have learnt from the current economic climate is that even if there is a decrease in footfall, it doesn’t necessarily mean a decline in sales as those who do come to the town centre are there to shop, rather than browse.”

Published on Monday 06 June by Editorial Assistant

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