‘Right mix of shops’ is key to town centre success

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SHOPS and businesses in Hastings have bucked the recession and seen a bumper trade in the January sales.

Many saw a huge rise in the number of people shopping and spending money – a far cry from early January last year, when the town was under several inches of snow.

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow shopping centre, said the town centre had been ‘buoyant’ since Christmas.

He said: “We have had quite a bounce back in trade and there has been significant improvement so far as compared to 2009.

“Around 60 per cent of businesses which gave figures said their trade was up, compared to the same period a year ago.”

Mr Hough also said the number of people shopping in Priory Meadow was higher.

For the week ending January 2 there were 81,500 shoppers in total, a three per cent increase from the same week last year and 113,000 people for the week ending January 9, which was a massive 40 per cent rise.

Mr Hough said he believed the VAT rise had not had a big impact on trade.

He said: “There has been a rise in trade so far this year because in the first two weeks of last January the weather was dreadful with all the snow.

“The VAT rise is only noticeable with big ticketed items, like washing machines, where a two-and-a-half per cent increase makes a difference.

“There are still lots of bargains to be had out there. Trade has been better than I expected.

“It was very busy on the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas, with people rushing out to spend their Christmas money and take advantage before the VAT increase took hold.”

Rob Woods, town centre manager, said shops had done ‘remarkably well’ since Christmas and said he could not see the VAT rise being much of a problem in the long-term.

But he said: “As a town centre we need to do more to encourage people to shop here over the next few months, as some of the retailers feel that the next three months are going to be quite a difficult time for them. We already have the right mixture of shops.”