Downturn in trade amid bad weather and the recession

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HASTINGS town centre saw around 250,000 fewer shoppers over the summer this year, thanks to poor weather and the ongoing recession.

A wet August and constantly changing weather in July meant many businesses suffered a less than buoyant trade.

Rob Woods, town centre manager, said there had been a 7.5 per cent drop in the number of people walking through the town centre and shopping from the beginning of May to the end of last month, compared to the same period last year.

He said: “Like most town centres during the course of this year we have certainly experienced a slowdown and reductions in footfall.

“Businesses here have a real concern that not only is trade harder to find but they are finding themselves bombarded with extra costs, such as fuel and increased energy costs.

“The weather this summer has also worked against us. It was really good last year and footfall figures were very high.”

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said overall visitor numbers throughout this summer had seen a drop of between five and 10 per cent compared to the same period last year.

On Bank Holiday Monday (August 29) there were just under 26,000 people visiting Priory Meadow. Last year, on the same day the figure was 29,000.

Over the Saturday and Sunday immediately before the Bank Holiday, visitor numbers were 60,000 this year. But last year it was 66,000.

Mr Hough said: “Footfall has been down this year over the summer holidays. The weather was also awful throughout August which has affected fashion retailers.

“Quite a lot of anticipated summer spending was quite early this year, around April and May. But I think it is more down to the recession.”

However it was not all bad news. Mr Hough said some retailers had seen a drop in trade over this summer but virtually all shops selling higher value goods like jewellery had performed better, compared to last year.

“Footfall may have been down but those who have come have spent money,” he told the Observer.

In the Old Town shops and businesses have enjoyed a buoyant trade, according to Ian Porter, secretary of the High Street Traders Association.

He said there had been no drop in business, despite the wet and soggy August.

Mr Porter added: “Everyone has done very well and there have been no reports of trade being bad. The High Street and Old Town always seems to be an area of Hastings where business is regular.”

Kevin Boorman, head of marketing and communications at Hastings Borough Council, said it was still too early to say how many people had walked through the doors at the town’s attractions throughout the tourist season from Easter onwards.

But he said there had been ‘very good’ feedback.

He said: “No one has told me that it has been a bad year and overall we have done exceptionally well. The season has not really finished until the end of October because there is the Seafood and Wine Festival next weekend.”